India PM appeals for 'productive' parliament

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's premier appealed on Saturday to the opposition to make the next session of parliament "productive" after the last one was cut short by heated rows over allegations of government corruption.

"The government is willing to discuss any issue," embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi ahead of the scheduled opening of the monsoon session on Monday.

"I hope it will be a constructive and productive session of parliament - a lot of legislative agenda is pending," Dr Singh told reporters.

The last session ended two days early, gridlocked by opposition protests over alleged government graft, and was one of the least productive on record.

The session opens as India faces testing times - hit by a capital flight with investors worried about slow growth, a massive deficit, stalled economic reforms and a slew of graft scandals that have paralysed the political process.

Leading news magazine India Today called the session a "last chance" for Dr Singh, widely accused of being an indecisive underachiever.

Dr Singh "has got his choice cut out for him: do or be damned", the magazine said.

Top of the Congress government's lawmaking agenda is its landmark food security measure to give ultra-cheap grain to over 800 million people it sees as key to its hopes of election for a third term, in polls due by May 2014.

The left-leaning government put the populist food scheme, aimed at addressing widespread malnutrition, into effect using an emergency decree - but it needs passage through parliament to become law.

The government expects support for the food welfare measure, with the opposition expressing broad backing - mindful of the fact criticism could steer India's legions of poor towards Congress as elections near.

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