In an unusual move, the government may cut down the debate on the President’s Address from three days to one in order to bring on board an aggressive Opposition that is threatening to derail proceedings unless their demand for an immediate discussion on issues like price rise and Indo-Pak talks are accommodated.
The Parliament session will open on February 22 with the President’s Address. The Railway and the General Budgets will be presented on February 24 and 26.
Traditionally, the first session of the year starts with the President’s Address and a three-day debate on it.
But at a meeting Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal had with party whips on Wednesday, the BJP demanded discussions on price rise, internal security and Indo-Pak talks on February 23, 24 and 25 respectively. The thinly veiled message: if you don’t agree, the House will stand disrupted.
The government offered a debate on any issue but urged the Opposition not to break the tradition of first discussing the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address.
The government’s tentative plan to prune the debate is based on its experience in 2004 when the Motion of Thanks had to be passed without discussion or the Prime Minister’s reply since the Opposition had stalled Parliament over the induction of “tainted” ministers.
Subdued during the first three sessions of UPA-II, this time the Opposition and supporting parties like the RJD, SP and BSP intend to put the government on the mat over people’s issues right from the word go.
Besides the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Rupani, others demanding a debate on such issues include the SP’s Shailendra Kumar and RJD’s Mangani Lal Mandal. MDMK’s Ganeshmurthi demanded simultaneous interpretation of proceedings in all official languages. Other issues flagged include the attack on Indian students in Australia and the PM’s offer of a package to J&K (by National Conference’s M.M. Baig), the Copenhagen summit on climate change and the divisive politics in Maharashtra, including the attack on North Indians there (RJD’s Rajniti Prasad) and the problem of fake currency (BSP’s B S Tiwari).