The United Progressive Alliance government was spared embarrassment on Tuesday as the Finance Bill 2013-14, the railway budget, the Appropriation Bills and demands for grants to various ministries were approved by the Lok Sabha without discussion, even as the Opposition walked out seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation over coalgate. Political analysts say this was one of the rare occasions in Parliament history when all important money Bills were passed on a single day, that too within a few hours and without discussion.
While BJP members walked out on the coal issue, those of the Left, the Biju Janata Dal and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam left the House to protest approval of important Bills without discussion. The DMK members exited from the House seeking removal of the Congress’ P.C. Chacko as Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G spectrum allocation.
Members of the Janata Dal(United), the Telugu Desam Party and the Shiv Sena also walked out. As the opposition members were going out, Speaker Meira Kumar said: “It immensely pains me that circumstances are such that we have to dispense with discussion and we have to pass these four items. The time fixed for guillotine is 1.30 p.m. and this was fixed at the leaders’ meeting yesterday [Monday].”
No wealth tax on farm land
In his comments before the Bills were approved by voice vote, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram ruled out imposition of wealth tax on agricultural land and announced exemption to the Railways from payment of service tax for the period July, 1, 2012-October 1, 2012.
The Minister introduced an amendment in view of misapprehensions that wealth tax would apply to agricultural land. “Let me make it absolutely clear that the policy of the UPA government is not to impose wealth tax on agriculture land,” he said.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj blamed the government for stalling the Public Accounts Committee report on 2G spectrum allocation by creating a ruckus and preparing a draft JPC report on the issue which went “completely against the facts,” and for the Law Minister “changing the CBI report on the coal scam in his office.” And now “they were claiming that the Law Minister was only correcting grammatical errors.”
The Trinamool Congress’ Sougata Roy quoted rules of the House to say money Bills could not be passed without discussion, lest it set a bad precedent.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) attacked the government for not taking effective action to curb scams.
CPI(M) floor leader Basudeb Acharia said passing Bills without discussion was unfortunate. “Government is responsible for creating this impasse by its obduracy,” he said and sought Mr. Chacko’s removal. CPI floor leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the government had become insensitive as was evident in the JPC issue.
The AIADMK’s M. Thambi Durai said the government was unfit to rule. He sought a special financial package for Tamil Nadu.
TDP floor leader Nama Nageshwara Rao blamed the Congress for not allowing a debate on crucial issues like farmers’ plight and the coal scam.