Parliament session washed out, bills pending
Month-long protests in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by various parties on issues ranging from Andhra special status and Cauvery to the PNB fraud and vandalisation of statues led to slogan-shouting and repeated adjournments.Updated: Apr 10, 2018 11:15 IST
With the washout of proceedings in its second half, this year’s budget session of Parliament ended on Friday as one of the most dramatic, yet least productive in 18 years, leaving several key bills pending as the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition head towards the 2019 general election.
The last full budget session before the election couldn’t get to debate five no-confidence motions, and passed the budget and related bills without debate. Just two out of eight planned bills were introduced.
Fiery regional issues such as the sharing of Cauvery river waters among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, and Andhra Pradesh’s demand for recognition as a special category state that would entitle it to certain central grants overshadowed national debates. Five MPs of the YSR Congress Party, the main opposition in Andhra Pradesh, resigned on the last day of the session after days of acrimony.
Proceedings were halted by opposition protests over issues such as the fraud at Punjab National Bank, the agrarian crisis that farmers in parts of the country are confronting and the perceived dilution of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by a Supreme Court order banning automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of underprivileged communities.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its crucial southern ally—Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telugu Desam Party—during the session over denial of special category status to the state and a section of the Opposition, led by the Congress continues to consider an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at the Congress for engaging in divisive politics and causing the impasse in Parliament. BJP MPs will observe a fast on April 12 to protest the logjam in Parliament, he said.
- Lok Sabha
- 29 sittings
- Lost 127 hours and 45 minutes
- Worked for 34 hours, 5 minutes
- Rajya Sabha
- 30 sittings
- Lost more than 121 hours
- Worked for 45 hours
Continuous disruptions for 22 days equaled the worst parliamentary logjam of 2010. It was also the least productive budget session since 2000. A livid Rajya Sabha chairman M.Venkaiah Naidu invoked Jawahar Lal Nehru’s remarks in 1936 to caution MPs about becoming “reactionary forces”.
“During the Constituent Assembly debates on the need for a Council of States, some Members feared that it would prove to be a clog (impediment) in the wheel of progress involving expenses and not making much contribution. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, who headed the Union Constitution Committee for reporting on the structure and function of the future legislature of our country, had feared in 1936 that a Second Chamber would check any forward tendencies of the Lower House and will be reactionary. Are we making Nehru’s worst fear come true? We should not for the sake of our Parliamentary democracy and the people,” Naidu said at the end of what he described as an “eminently forgettable” session. The session clearly showed that as the general election nears, the Congress and other Opposition parties—who are otherwise exploring the possibilities of forging a united front against the NDA—will adopt a more aggressive stance in Parliament on issues that they think are close to the people.
Naidu, who tried several times to end the impasse, finally remarked: “I am disturbed to note a total breakdown in communication among various sections of the House that was at the root of the prolonged stalemate that ruined this important session. This is not good for our parliamentary democracy...”
In a rare sight, ministers protested in front of the fabled Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex against the non-functioning of the legislature. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar, food and civil supplies minister Ram Vilas Paswan, health minister J P Nadda, steel minister Birendra Singh, Shiv Pratap Shukla,minister of state for finance, S S Ahluwalia, minister of state for agriculture, Vijay Geol, minister of state for parliamentary affairs; and Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways,) were among the protestors. “The Congress did not allow the House to function and we are upset in the manner the proceedings were disrupted,” Kumar, who was leading the protest, said.
The Congress hit back soon after. The party’s Lok Sabha leader KC Venugopal moved a privilege motion against Kumar and said, “The minister was deliberately misleading the house by naming the Congress leadership, thereby hiding the fact that it was the government which was actually stopping any kind of discussion on these issues including the no-confidence motion.”