Parliament adjourned sine die two days ahead of schedule
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s efforts to push the food security and land acquisition bills through Parliament in the budget session — and give itself talking points for the general elections just a year away — failed with both Houses adjourning sine die on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.
But this failure had as much to do with the Opposition’s determination to put the government on the mat as the Congress’ clumsy parliamentary management and obstinacy in not conceding the demands for the scalps of its Ministers. In the end, all that was achieved was passage of the Finance Bill and the Railway budget — and that too with virtually no discussion, something the Opposition needs to answer for.
The session began on a sour note with the Opposition expressing anger at the leaking of the draft JPC report on 2G on the eve of the Parliament session and at its contents. If that plunged the two Houses into turmoil, the discovery that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar may have tried to influence the CBI’s investigations into Coalgate, followed by the arrest of Railway Minister Pawan Bansal’s nephew on charges of accepting a bribe, ensured that the Opposition had enough to make a noise about.
The government has since shown its determination not to concede the Opposition’s demand for the resignations of the two Ministers, with party sources saying there is division on how to deal with the matter. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi is keen to drop the Ministers, the other view is that the party is still paying for the swiftness with which it dumped Ashok Chavan as Chief Minister on charges of involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai.
After the Supreme Court’s order in the CBI affidavit case came in on Wednesday, a senior Congress functionary said that while the court had been critical of Mr. Kumar’s role, it was not an indictment that merited his sacking. Similarly, in the case of Mr. Bansal, Congress sources are still repeating that the sins of the nephew should not visit upon the uncle unless there is evidence to directly link the Minister to the bribe given by Railway Board member Mukesh Kumar.
‘Betrayal of trust’
Meanwhile, the chairs of both Houses expressed their displeasure at the way business was obstructed. Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari made a terse comment that the record of work done and not done in the second half of the budget session was in the public domain and did not require any commentary. He also asked MPs whether the balance between deliberation, regulation and accountability had been totally lost and wondered whether they ever assessed the impact of frequent disruptions.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, choosing not to make her customary valedictory address, said the House was adjourned early because it was not running.
“The House should run, the House should always run. There should not be any disturbance for any reason,” Ms. Kumar told journalists. “It is a betrayal of the trust of the people who have elected their representatives.”
And then there were the cynics in the party who said Parliament was adjourned in anticipation of the embarrassing strictures by the Supreme Court in the coal scam case that would continue to reverberate in the two Houses for the next two days and, in turn, overshadow the Congress’ victory in Karnataka.
J. Balaji reports:
Before adjourning the House, Ms. Kumar pulled up a member for walking out while Vande Mataram was being played. “Members, I just saw one honourable member walking out when Vande Mataram was being played. I take a very serious view of this. I just want to know why this was done. I would urge that this should never be done again,” she said.