Second half of Budget Session a washout, low productivity
The budget session of Parliament ended on Friday with the second part completely washed out in the wake of a standoff between the government and the opposition whose no-confidence motion was not taken up for more than a fortnight.
In an unprecedented action, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not take up the raft of no-confidence motions tabled by several opposition parties citing “disturbances” in the House which she said did not allow her to make a proper count of members backing the motion.
At least 50 members should back a no-confidence motion. The rules also provide that once a no-trust motion is given notice of, the Speaker has to suspend all other business and take up the motion. Once it gets the required backing at the admission stage, it is admitted and a discussion begins immediately to be followed by a vote on the floor of the House.
But a blame game followed with each side accusing the other of being responsible for the unprecedented stalemate during which the budget, demands for grants and the Finance Bill were passed without any discussion in a matter of minutes amidst din.
While the first half of budget session – from January 29 to February 9 – was productive, the second half from March 5 saw repeated adjournments in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha amid display of placards and sloganeering by parties, mainly the AIADMK and friend-turned-foe TDP besides the YSR Congress and TRS.
While initially there was some commonality in the demands of parties like the Congress, TMC and the Left over issues like bank frauds, “dilution” of the provisions of the SC/ST Act and agrarian distress, the TDP and YSR Congress pressed for separate status for Andhra Pradesh while AIADMK members demanded a Cauvery Management Board.
The rule under which the multi-crore banking fraud was to be discussed became an initial sticking point between the government and opposition.
According to PRS legislative, a research initiative that tracks the work of Parliament, the budget session was least productive since 2000. The two houses also spent the least amount of time spent on debating the Budget since 2000.
The session saw the lowest number of discussions on matters of public importance since 2014 and poorest performance of Question Hour in Lok Sabha. Only one percent of productive time was spent on legislative business in Lok Sabha and six percent in Rajya Sabha
“Due to frequent disruptions, Lok Sabha worked for 22 per cent of its scheduled time and Rajya sabha worked for 27 per cent. Parliament not being able to function and carry out its constitutional mandate is a matter of concern,” Trina Roy, Programme Officer at PRS Legislative Research, told IANS.
The opposition and the government blamed each other for the stalemate.
With almost a year left for the next Lok Sabha polls and several state elections to take place this year, the BJP was evidently not keen to allow the opposition to score any brownie points.
Speaker Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu expressed serious concern over the disruptions.
Naidu rued that he had little to say in terms of what the Rajya Sabha did, but a lot about what it did not. He wondered if the House can justify its existence and the resources spent on it.
He said that all the members needed to “now reflect on how we together end up in such a lose-lose situation when it could have been a win-win situation”.
The session saw the BJP emerging as the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha and several new members taking oath.
With Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien retiring in July, the next session is expected to see a contest between the ruling NDA and the opposition for the post. (IANS)