Parliament did not function on Tuesday and, unless some agreement is hammered out, it threatens to stand derailed this week as the deadlock deepened over the manner in which the price rise debate should be held.
With UPA allies like the DMK and Trinamool Congress also seeking an early debate, the Opposition insisted on a discussion that entails voting — an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha and under rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha — so that it could expose the fissures in the ruling camp. The government instead offered a general discussion where there is no voting.
The face-off led to heated exchanges and the adjournment of both Houses on the first working day of the Budget session.
The only silver lining was the Opposition’s announcement that it would not disrupt the presentation of the Rail Budget in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
“Presentation of the rail budget is a constitutional process and we will not interrupt it,” said S.S. Ahluwalia, BJP’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha.
However, disruptions would take place before and after that. This would apply to the General Budget on February 26, unless the stalemate is resolved.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was clearly upset that the House could not function. “I wanted that the House should discuss the matter. But proceedings were disrupted over the rule under which the debate should take place.”
It was trouble from the word go in both Houses. In the Lok Sabha, some Opposition MPs carried placards saying, “Mahangai ko samapt karo, mahangai mantri ko barkhast karo (check price rise, dismiss the minister responsible for price rise).” Both Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee and Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar were present.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal said the government was ready for a discussion, but the rules did not permit an adjournment motion. “The government is prepared to have a nine-hour discussion on price rise while any matter can be discussed only for two-and-a-half hours under the adjournment motion,” he said. He also said the Opposition would get a chance to vote on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address and the Railway and General Budgets.
An uproar followed when Bansal suggested that states were primarily responsible for acting against hoarders and implementing laws like the Essential Commodities Act.
“The government wants to escape a parliamentary referendum in both Houses on price rise,’’ charged Ahluwalia.
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said since the House has agreed to the discussion, it should be held under rule 167.