Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : May - June 2018

Parliament washout a new low Govt. loses TDP, key Southern Ally

The Budget Session of Parliament, the last such full-fledged session of the Modi Government, turned out to be a total washout. In the first leg of the Budget Session, while at least the Budget exercise was gone through, the second leg that commenced on March 5 and concluded on April 6, was a clean washout. It was during this Budget Session that the Modi Government lost support of the TDP, the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh, its key Southern Ally. This has made a serious dent in the BJP Establishment. TDP Supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu pulled out his Ministers in the Modi Government at the Centre and walked out of the NDA, over the denial of Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh. This Budget Session has also seen the ugly spectacle of Union Ministers staging a protest in front of the Gandhi statue in Parliament complex against the non-functioning of Parliament. BJP veteran Atal Behari Vajpayee always maintained that running of the House was the sole responsibility of the ruling party. Perhaps the BJP establishment failed the benchmark set by its own party veteran. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Health Minister J P Nadda, Union Steel Minister Birendra Singh, Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State for Agriculture S S Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinhawere among the protestors. The best part was that the Government managed to bid farewell to 60 retiring members of the Rajya Sabha, when the protesting AIADMK members were persuaded to shift their protest from the House to the Gandhi statue in the complex. This development raised several eyebrows, making observers wonder whether the AIADMK was acting at the behest of the ruling BJP. In a bid to queer the pitch for the Opposition Congress, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar charged, “The Congress did not allow the House to function and we are upset in the manner the proceedings were disrupted.” The Congress hit back soon after. On behalf of the Congress, KC Venugopal moved a Privilege Motion against Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar. K C Venugopal 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.” Due to the disruptions, the House could not debate the important Finance Bill 2018 but passed the payment of gratuity law without debate.

The Rajya Sabha also had a debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address to the joint sitting of Parliament for about 14 hours and devoted 10 hours to discuss the Budget in the first-leg of the Budget Session. The second-leg of the Budget Session was marred after the ruling BJP decided to avert discussion on the No-Confidence Motion moved by the Opposition in the House of People, the Lok Sabha. With Assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP felt it prudent to avoid discussion in the No-Confidence Motion, as it could hurt its image. In the same way, it decided to defer any discussion and any decision on crucial issues like Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh, setting up the Cauvery Management Board demanded by the political parties in Tamil Nadu and on the bank scams in the context of Punjab National Bank scam. Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he was pained to note that it turned out to be an eminently forgettable Budget Session on account of utter disregard of the mandate of this important parliamentary institution and its responsibilities and missed opportunities. Venkaiah Naidu said, “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.” Venkaiah Naidu rued that he had little to say in terms of what the Rajya Sabha did but a lot to say what it did not. “No legislative work transacted except passing of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and that too without any discussion even as several important Bills awaited your consideration,” he said. “This is not good for our parliamentary democracy of which our country has come to acquire a pride of place,” he said, adding “we are all losers. This includes the opposition, the ruling party, the government and most importantly, the people and the nation.” Referring to the Upper-House not transacting any substantial business during the second part of the Budget Session, Venkaiah Naidu wondered if the fears of those who doubted the need for a Second Chamber during the debates in the Constituent Assembly were coming true.

Venkaiah Naidu recalled that 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. Jawaharlal Nehru, who headed the Union Constitution Committee for reporting on the structure and function of the future legislature of the country, had feared in 1936 that a Second Chamber will check any forward tendencies of the Lower House and will be reactionary, Venkaiah Naidu said. “Are we making Nehru's worst fear come true? We should not, for the sake of our parliamentary democracy and the people,” remarked the Rajya Sabha Chairman. Again talking about the disruptions, he said: “Let us not be a party to this House becoming a clog in the wheel of progress.” Instead, the members should dispel the fears expressed by Nehru, who despite having reservations about the utility of the Upper House had supported its coming into being. “You need to rise to the expectations of those who strongly justified the need for this House in the Constituent Assembly,” Naidu said.

-Venkat Parsa

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