The government sought to emphasise the UPA’s commitment to Parliament, with Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday calling off his visit to Washington in the wake of the objections by the BJP - and the Left - that a minister should not go abroad when the two Houses are in session. More so, when financial business was being discussed.
"The Finance Minister has cancelled his visit abroad and he will stay back in view of the parliamentary business. It shows the UPA’s commitment to Parliament," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi. He said that after he conveyed the BJP’s reservation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the minister was requested to drop the visit. The minister did and in the process helped the UPA restore the primacy of Parliament.
Earlier, in view of the impending foreign trip, the government sought the BJP’s cooperation for the early approval of the Finance Bill early. Accordingly, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday and by the Rajya Sabha on Friday, with the sitting of the Upper House on Saturday now cancelled.
The government’s explanation is that programme of the minister - who would have been away from May 6-10 for a World Bank meeting in Washington - was drawn up earlier. Had the House met as per its original schedule on April 18, the procedure relating to the passage of the Finance Bill would have been spread over a fortnight.
But in view of the UP elections, the session was delayed by eight days so that the government had to compress the schedule for passing the Finance Bill.
Damunsi scotched "rumours" of early adjournment of Parliament following the passing of the Finance Bill, stating that there was enough business till May 22, the closing date of the session. He, however, added that much would depend on whether the Opposition allowed the House to run or not.
The government, he said, plans to bring the communal harmony, securities contract and the seeds bills while a series of discussions are listed for the two Houses. On his part, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to call a meeting of leaders of political parties next week - after they finish their campaign on May 6 for the last phase of the UP elections - to discuss the alleged involvement of MPs in human trafficking.
The Lok Sabha is slated to discuss global warming (May 8), Indo-Pak relations (May 9), relationship between executive, legislature and judiciary (May 14) and price rise (May 15) which, however, could be advanced.
A debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal is on the anvil,with the prime minister expected to reply to it. The Rajya Sabha will discuss the working of the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare (May 8), Agriculture (May 9), HRD (May 10) and Rural Development (May 11).
Earlier, when the BJP referred to reports that the UPA may opt for premature adjournment of Parliament to place UP under President’s Rule if there was a hung verdict on May 11, Dasmunsi underlined that the agenda of the House had nothing to do with the UP polls. He also said that the Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha has chalked out the schedule for the House till May 15.