Parliament set to create records in business done in one session
The first Parliament session in the second term of the Narendra Modi government has turned out to be the most productive ever for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) , setting a record for the passage of legislation, and setting new milestones in time consumed and participation of members, among other things.
Lok Sabha has already passed 23 bills—the most under the NDA in a single session. The extension until August 7 of the budget session provides an additional opportunity for the government to try to clear all 35 bills introduced in the session.
To be sure, opposition leaders have alleged that the government is in a tearing hurry to clear the bills and that it has ignored their demands for a parliamentary review of some of them. So far, not a single bill has been sent to a Select Committee or referred to a department-related parliamentary standing committee, speeding up the passage of proposed laws.
The House has already broken the record for the past 25 years in terms of utilization of time. According to PRS Legislative Research, the House has clocked 132% time utilization by frequently working till late in the evening to complete the day’s business.
While these added hours have helped the government push its long list of legislative business, the Opposition too, got ample time to speak in the House. So far, 412 out of the 462 first-time MPs have already spoken in the House, stark contrast from the 16th Lok Sabha, in which some new MPs even waited for three-four years to deliver their maiden speech.
The ongoing budget session has already used up 250 hours—the highest in the last 15 years—even surpassing many full-fledged budget sessions that were spread over two parts and lasted for three months. So far, the Narendra Modi government’s best time utilization was during the 2015 Budget session that ran for 239 hours or 122% of the scheduled time.
This session has not just cruised past that record but will set a new benchmark with at least three more days to go. Officials said another extension of the session by two days, to commemorate Quit India Day on August 9, is expected, in all likelihood extending the record.
If the House sits till August 9, it will complete 40 working days to touch a 17-year old record of sitting for the most number of days. According to data available with the ministry of parliamentary affairs, the 2002 budget session also lasted 40 working days.
Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has so far been able to deftly handle protests and potential disruptions in the House. The remainder of the Lok Sabha’s term will test him when the bitter political rivalry between the NDA and its opponents flares up after the initial honeymoon period enjoyed by a new government lapses. But so far, Birla has earned accolades from both sides. Congress floor leader Adhir Chowdhury has even said that he wants Birla to be recognised as the best speaker among Commonwealth nations.
The 17th Lok Sabha has often seen extended Zero Hours—when an MP can raise any local or nationally important issue—to allow more MPs to participate. Birla has also ensured shorter questions and answers during Question Hour to accommodate more questions.
In an informal interaction, Birla told HT that his only aim is to see that the House runs properly. “I will remain neutral and give equal opportunities to both sides. Whoever from the Opposition benches wants to speak, he or she will get the chance.”