With elections in four states round the corner, major political parties on Thursday failed to reach a consensus on the schedule for the budget session. They, however, agreed to a government proposal to hold the first half of the session from February 23.
The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs that met soon after an informal meeting between the government and the Opposition decided to let the first half run till March 16 and the second — largely utilised for passing non-budget legislation — from April 25 to May 13.
“The session will commence on February 23. The rail budget will be presented on February 25, the pre-budget economic survey on February 26 and the general budget on February 29,” parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said after the meeting.
“There were suggestions for curtailing the recess period due to assembly elections in four states. In 2011, the then government had decided not to refer bills to standing committees in the budget session when states were going to polls as there were demands to curtail the session,” he said.
In the informal meeting between the government and seven Opposition parties, many leaders favoured scrapping of the second half of the session. The Opposition leaders, however, wanted the government to take the initiative. Ministers Naidu and Arun Jaitley refused to do so, sources said. The government told the Opposition if it was keen to curtail the session, it would have to take the lead.
“Our focus area would be Assam. The Congress’s stakes are high in four states. The Left has to fight in two states. But they want us to take the lead to curtail the session. Why should we do it?” a minister said in the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs meeting. In this meeting, there was virtually no discussion on the agenda — the long-pending GST bill, the real estate bill or labour reforms.
Sources said that was an indication the government had not been able to build a consensus on key bills. Congress sources told HT the party was unlikely to budge from its demand that three key changes be made in the GST bill.