The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday said it did not want to create a constitutional crisis and, therefore, walked out when the Lok Sabha took up the Finance Bill rather than disturb the proceedings.
Both Leaders of the Opposition — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — noted that on “track 2” they had let it be known to the government that had a debate on the Prime Minister's statement on WikiLeaks relating to the ‘cash-for-votes' episode of 2008 been conceded and begun in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, they would have participated in the proceedings to pass the Finance Bill in the Lower House.
When it was pointed out to Ms. Swaraj that was not her offer to the government on the floor of the Lok Sabha, where she was insistent on starting the debate before the Finance Bill was taken up, she said propriety demanded that she should not say anything related to the agenda in the other House. Separately, Mr. Jaitley confirmed that on “track 2” the BJP had offered to the government a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Prime Minister's statement and consideration of the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. But that offer was not taken up.
Party spokesman S.S. Ahluwalia was asked whether there was any precedent of the Opposition wanting to shelve legislation as important as the Finance Bill to take up a short-duration discussion, as Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee had warned that the government would not concede the demand as it would be setting a bad precedent. Mr. Ahluwalia's response was not specific about when a discussion demanded by the Opposition under rule 193 was immediately conceded, but said “this has happened many times.”
Didn't the Opposition lose an opportunity to put the government on the mat on economic issues in general and the budget in specific? Ms. Swaraj simply shrugged her shoulders to say that sometimes such opportunities were lost. The attempt was to send a different message: the BJP was firm on the debate on the Prime Minister's statement, on which it had also moved a privilege motion.
On the privilege motion, it is learnt, Ms. Swaraj, in whose name the notice has been given, has mentioned the serious nature of the issues involved and their having been made “more serious” by the WikiLeaks expose by The Hindu. On this matter what the Prime Minister said did not square up with the facts. While he stated the parliamentary committee that went into the matter found “insufficient evidence” of bribing of MPs, the committee report said Sanjeev Saxena (a smaller player in that drama) was a “bribe giver” wittingly or unwittingly and further investigations were needed.
The government's contention is that the Crime branch of the Delhi Police is inquiring into the matter, but the BJP has now demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, a plea it has not made so far in the nearly three-year-old episode. At that time since the parliamentary committee had also indicted L.K. Advani's aide Sudheendra Kulkarni for being a party to the alleged bribing of an MP, the BJP privately expressed the view that it was not interested in the matter any more.