Parliament’s Budget session marked by acrimony between government, opposition; Dhankar points to ‘weaponising of politics’

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NEW DELHI: The budget session of Parliament ended on an acrimonious note on Thursday with the opposition and BJP levelling charges at each other as the past four weeks saw both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha facing continuous disruptions over contesting demands.

Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die on Thursday and registered low productivity. The session saw opposition parties coming together to take on the BJP-led government on the Adani issue. The second half of the budget session saw Congress and other opposition parties consistently raising the demand for a JPC probe into the Hindenburg-Adani row.

The BJP members sought an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his remarks in the United Kingdom.
In his valedictory remarks, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar referred to continuous disruptions and said “weaponising of politics by stalling functioning of Parliament is pregnant with serious consequences for our polity”.

Many opposition leaders termed the second half of the budget session a washout. They accused the government of causing “disturbances”.

Hitting back, BJP leader and union minister Piyush Goyal alleged that Congress had made up its mind that they will not allow the Parliament to function.

The frayed relationship between the government and the opposition got further strained after the disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha following his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case.

The opposition parties resorted to ‘black cloth’ protest against the government. The legislative agenda was pushed amid a ruckus with the union budget and finance bill approved without debate.

The decision to extend the suspension of Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajani Patil till the first week of the monsoon session led to an angry response from Congress which said that the move is against the rules.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to Rajya Sabha Chairman on the issue and also on his decision on point of order.

Kharge, who is Congress chief, said presiding officers cannot display loyalty to ruling party after Dhankhar rejected his point of order against Piyush Goyal.

The tensions inside parliament had a reflection outside too with the BJP and Congress leaders targeting each other.
While Lok Sabha saw productivity of about 34 per cent, in Rajya Sabha it was 24.4 per cent.

Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said a total of six bills were passed by both the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha.

The Finance Bill, 2023; The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2023; The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation (No. 2) Bill, 2023; The Appropriation (No. 2) Bill, 2023; The Appropriation Bill, 2023 and The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2023 were passed and returned by both the Houses.

The Budget Session of Parliament commenced on January 31, 2023. While the first part of the session ended on February 13, the second part commenced on March 13 after a recess. The Union Budget for 2023-24 was presented on February 1, 2023.

Opposition members continued their protests on Thursday also.

Referring to opposition members who were protesting in the well and raising slogans, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said their conduct is not appropriate for the House and country’s democratic traditions. “You obstruct in a planned way, do not want to do discussion, this is not appropriate,” he said.

Birla referred to the continuous disruption in the House during the session and observed that inappropriate conduct and behaviour in the House is not beneficial for the Parliament and the nation.

Referring to the responsibilities of the members towards the House, Birla said that the House is a place for debates and discussion and that he wants the House to discuss every issue.

He stressed that it is not appropriate for some Members to lower the dignity of the House by rushing to the well.
Birla added that he has always given sufficient time and opportunity to all the Members to present their views in the House and on many occasions the House has functioned late into the night.

He said eight government Bills were introduced and six were passed during the session.

The Speaker said department-related standing committees of the Lok Sabha presented 62 reports.

In Lok Sabha, the productivity of the First Part of the Budget Session was 83.80 percent, while for the second part it was 5.29 percent. “Cumulatively, the House productivity during the Eleventh Session of 17th Lok Sabha was 34.85 percent,” Birla said.

Opposition parties including Congress, DMK and TMC are learnt to have skipped the ‘courtesy tea meeting’ called by the Speaker.

In his valedictory remarks, Dhankar said that the 259th session of Rajya Sabha has come to a close albeit on a note of concern.

“Parliament is the watchdog of democracy and people are our watchdog and supreme masters. Our primary obligation is to serve them. The hallowed precincts of the Parliament are for discussions and deliberations, debates and decisions for the holistic welfare of the people,” he said.

“How ironical disorder in Parliament is turning out to be the new order- a new norm that decimates the essence of democracy. How worrisome and alarming! Paramountcy of debate, dialogue, deliberation and discussion in Parliament has yielded to disruption and disturbance,” he added.

“Weaponising of politics by stalling the functioning of Parliament is pregnant with serious consequences for our polity. This is to the utter dislike of the people at large. In public mind we as a class are subject of disdain and ridicule. We need to reflect our track record on the anvil- expectations of the people. Posterity will judge us not by the decibels generated in shouting slogans, but by our multifarious contributions towards strengthening the growth trajectory of our nation,” the Chairman said.

He said the productivity of the first part of the Budget Session was 56.3 per cent, while for the second part it plummeted to an abysmal 6.4 per cent. Cumulatively, the House productivity was only 24.4 per cent.
Dhankar said disruptions claimed 103 hours and thirty minutes of its time.

“Let’s ponder over the dismal performance of the House and find a way out,” he said.

Leaders of some opposition parties held a press conference and accused the BJP of creating “disturbances” during the budget session of Parliament.

Kharge said that the government did not want to discuss the Adani issue over which the opposition has been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe.

He said efforts were on for unity among opposition parties and their concern was to “save the country and preserve unity”.

Kharge accused the BJP of double standards on the issue of disqualification, saying while Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha following his conviction in a defamation case came at “lighting speed”, a BJP MP from Gujarat who was convicted for three years for “assault” on a doctor from Dalit community, was not disqualified despite appeals made by the Congress and subsequently got relief from the court.

Kharge said there is a vast difference in what BJP preaches about democracy and what it practices and alleged that opposition leaders were prevented from speaking in Parliament.

He said he had never seen such an attitude of the ruling party in his long legislative innings.

He also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and alleged that he is on tour during Parliament sessions.

He also countered BJP allegations on ‘parivarvad’ against Nehru-Gandhi family and asked if any of its members had become a minister or Prime Minister since 1990.

“You (BJP) have no subject and hence say Gandhi family, Gandhi family. They did not become minister or Prime Minister (since 1990) and when members of that family agitate, work for fostering unity, you disqualify them. The one who hits a Dalit, he is given 16 days and brought back to the House,” Kharge said.

The Congress leader asked why the government had not agreed to JPC probe into the Hindenburg-Adani row, saying “there was something to hide”.

He said while a JPC will have majority members from BJP but the opposition parties will get an opportunity to examine documents.

Kharge said the demand for apology from Rahul Gandhi over his remarks in United Kingdom was raised to deflect attention from the demand for JPC probe.

Opposition MPs took out a ‘Tiranga March’ from Parliament to Vijay Chowk on the last day of the Budget session of Parliament in the national capital.

Congress leader KC Venugopal, who participated in the march said the government itself is not letting the Parliament run. “Why do they not want to discuss the Adani scam?” he asked. (ANI)

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