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Parliament: First part of Budget session ends amid ruckus, to resume in March

BySaubhadra Chatterji and Smriti Kak Ramachandran, New Delhi
Feb 14, 2023 02:36 AM IST

The session will resume on March 13 after a month-long break to allow the standing committees to scrutinise the Budget proposals of the respective ministries.

The first half of the Budget session of Parliament concluded on Monday amid bitter exchanges between the government and the Opposition over repeated disruptions and demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into allegations of fraud by the Adani Group, and disagreement over the decision to expunge parts of some leaders’ speeches.

Opposition MPs raise slogans in the well of Rajya Sabha, in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI)

The session will resume on March 13 after a month-long break to allow the standing committees to scrutinise the Budget proposals of the respective ministries. The first half started with President Droupadi Murmu’s first address to the joint sitting of the both Houses, followed by the presentation of Budget and discussions on these two items. It saw Opposition leaders, led by Rahul Gandhi, take on the government on the Adani issue and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spirited defence of his credibility and record.

Read more | Rahul attacks PM Modi over Parliament ruckus, Adani

On Monday, acrimony marked the proceedings in the Upper House – there was ruckus and a sharp exchange between chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge over expunged remarks. “The way the Opposition is stalling the proceedings in the House (Rajya Sabha) by creating a ruckus is very wrong and unfair…despite repeated requests, the Opposition did not allow the House to function. The Opposition members come to the House only once they have decided not to allow it to function,” Union minister and leader of the House, Piyush Goyal, said outside Parliament.

When Kharge rose to speak, several members from the ruling benches raised slogans. Kharge’s comments were later expunged by the chair. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “Six references to the relationship between the PM & Adani made by LoP and Congress president @kharge -ji have been expunged. This is an undeclared but definite Aapaat Kaal (emergency).”

Apart from presenting the Union Budget, the session was marked by PM Modi’s dismissal of allegations made against his government in two speeches that targetted the Opposition.

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha could utilise 82% and 63% of its allotted time in the first half, as per the PRS Legislative data. The Lok Sabha debated the President’s speech and the Budget for 13.44 hours and 14.45 hours, respectively, while the Rajya Sabha spent 13.49 hours and 2.21 hours, respectively, in the two debates.

Both presiding officers — Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairman Dhankhar — criticised the Opposition for disruptive tactics.

Even on Monday, Dhankhar said that despite his frequent rulings, the notices given under Rule 267 (to suspend the listed business to take up an issue raised by any member with the chair’s permission) were not in consonance with established procedures. He cited the example of AAP’s Sanjay Singh, who he said filed seven identical notices despite the chair’s instructions. “I am constrained on account of persistent obstruction, and I would go to the extent of saying deliberate obstruction.”

During the first part of the session, many Opposition leaders focused sharply on the Adani issue, leading to counter allegations. In the Lok Sabha, Modi said the blessings of India’s 1.4 billion people who experienced basic services for the first time under this government formed an armour that allegations by the Opposition could not pierce. In the Rajya Sabha, he said allegations or mud hurled at him will only make the lotus bloom more. But he didn’t mention any Opposition parties or the Adani Group.

Congress MP Rajani Patil was suspended pending an investigation for allegedly shooting and uploading a video.

For the first time, the Opposition made an issue out of expunged remarks, and sought to challenge the chair’s decisions. Kharge even accused the government of hiding the truth by exerting pressure on Dhankhar and Birla. Both Houses were adjourned repeatedly due to the Opposition protests demanding a JPC probe. In the Rajya Sabha, Dhankhar named some MPs who were protesting in the well of the House, but later did not press ahead with action.

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