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Total washout looms large on last day of winter session of Parliament

Prospects of a complete wash-out looms large over Parliament’s Winter Session with both Houses meeting for the last day on Friday

india Updated: Dec 16, 2016 10:42 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other leaders during an official function in Parliament House. The opposition and the government has repeatedly clashed over the demonetisation move in the winter session.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other leaders during an official function in Parliament House. The opposition and the government has repeatedly clashed over the demonetisation move in the winter session.(Ajay Aggarwal/HT PHOTO)

Parliament will meet one last time this year on Friday with prospects of a complete washout looming large over one of the most acrimonious sessions in recent times.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings commencing, a delegation of opposition leaders led by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will meet President Pranab Mukherjee to protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move and the “severe hardships it has unleashed” on the people.

The delegation will include leaders of 14 opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress and the Left. This is the second time the opposition parties will meet Mukherjee over spiking of the high-denomination currency notes.

Prior to this, a delegation of Congress MPs from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will meet the Prime Minister to press for their demand for loan waiver for debt-ridden farmers.

The meeting of the delegation, led by Rahul Gandhi, comes two days after the Congress received more than 2.5 crore loan waiver application forms from farmers of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The Congress plans to hand over those forms to the central government.

The month-long winter session has been a virtual washout as opposition parties and the government clashed primarily over the recall of 500- and 1,000-rupee banknotes.

On Wednesday, the BJP and its allies blocked the Opposition’s offer in the Lok Sabha for an unconditional debate on the demonetisation drive.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar opted, instead, to rake up the AgustaWestland helicopter scam that was discussed threadbare in Parliament two sessions ago.

In the Rajya Sabha, that assembled after a four-day gap, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad stood up to speak about farmers facing difficulties because of the cash crunch. But NDA parliamentarians, led by junior parliamentary affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, shouted him down.

“This is the first time in the history of India after Independence that it is the ruling party that does not allow the House to work,” Azad said.

Ruling lawmakers disrupted the Lok Sabha last Thursday and Friday when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi wanted to speak on the government’s decision to scrap the two high-value notes.

Read | As it happened: Parliament closer to a washout, deadlock over note ban continues

The repeated disruptions have frustrated even BJP veteran LK Advani, who said he felt like resigning.

The Congress vice-president has accused Modi of corruptionand alleged that the government was not allowing him to speak in Parliament because he is “terrified”.

The belligerent Opposition wants Modi to speak in the House on demonetisation, a surprise move that has left millions of people lining up at banks and ATM kiosks for more than a month.

For his part, the Prime Minister has accused the Opposition of not allowing him to speak in the House.

The confrontation overshadowed Parliament’s legislative business, including passage of key social and financial reforms bills.

The Lok Sabha, where the NDA enjoys a brute majority with more than 330 parliamentarians, has managed to pass two bills this session. The Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in a minority, passed a single legislation.

The Lower House has been able to use 15% of the allotted time, against the Rajya Sabha’s 19%. This is a sharp fall from the previous session in which the two Houses spent 101% and 96% of their time.

This could go down in history as the worst session since 2010.

In the 2010 session, the BJP-led Opposition stalled proceedings to demand a joint parliamentary panel on the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Three years later, the BJP again led repeated disruptions over alleged scams in coal block allocation.

(With agency inputs)