The 15th Lok Sabha came to an ignominious end on Friday as the least productive House of all time, leaving a legacy of unfinished business, unprecedented disruptions, a government and opposition constantly at odds, all-round bad behavior by members and even a pepper spray attack.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his chamber in Parliament House minutes before his final address. (HT photo)
On the last day of the winter session, bickering MPs finally got down to business, passing a bill that provides protection to whistleblowers. But having put in only 22 hours of work out of 154 hours the entire session, it was too little too late.
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After a whole session of slanging matches that peaked when the Telangana bill was brought to the House, members ended the day on a harmonious note, generously showering praise on each other.
Setting the tone, Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, complimented Congress president Sonia Gandhi as a “graceful leader” — a far cry from her threat 10 years ago to tonsure her head if Gandhi became prime minister. “We oppose each other but we are not enemies... We oppose ideologies... We are going back with so many sweet and sour memories,” Swaraj said.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, in turn, said he was “obliged” to the BJP for its help in the passage of the Telangana bill. Singling out Swaraj, he said, “Aap ki baat mein mithaas hai, mithai khane se bhi woh mithaas nahi hoti (your tone is sweet, sweeter than sweets).”
HT Edit | Lots of noise and very little work in this winter session of Parliament
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Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party has lately been at odds with the Congress, thanked Gandhi, saying she had always acted “whenever I passed on slips requesting something”.
BJP patriarch LK Advani was seen with moist eyes. Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI sought introspection on the way Parliament was functioning while the JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav asked members to forget the acrimony and make the future of the country their priority.
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However, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the BJP for not agreeing to extend the session, and said the government would consider the ordinance route for the disability rights bill. Government sources said it may not be the only bill to be enacted through an ordinance. Several anti-corruptions bills, including one providing time-bound delivery of government services, could go the same way before the announcement of general elections in March first week.
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But all that won’t stop the 15th Lok Sabha from going down in history as the worst performing lower House since Independence. Of 289 bill introduced, 70 lapsed — the highest ever — and the House functioned for just 61% of allocated time.
Its troubles started way back in 2010, when the 2G spectrum scam allowed that winter session to work for just 5.5% of the allocated time. House productivity rose to 89% in the 2012 budget session but it was all downhill after that. An uproar over the coal block allocation scam and demands for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation scuttled the monsoon session that followed. As parties geared up for polls, productivity fell to a dismal 8% in the 2013 winter session.