More than three months after the new Parliament House was inaugurated, Members of Parliament will move into the building on Tuesday, the second day of the special session. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi informed floor leaders of various political parties about the move at an all-party meeting convened by the governmenton the eve of the Special Session of Parliament, which is to be held between September 18 and 22.
“On the first day, the session will be held in the Old Parliament House. The next day, September 19, there will be a photo session, which usually is reserved for the end of the Lok Sabha’s tenure. Then at 11 a.m., there will be a function in the Central Hall. After that, we will enter the new Parliament. The Parliament session will start in the new Parliament on September 19 and regular government work will start there from September 20,” Mr. Joshi said, briefing the media after the two-and-a-half-hour-long meeting.
Enhancing women’s representation
Only three days of the session will be reserved for government business, about which there is still no clarity. Many parties — including some NDA allies, such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the National People’s Party (NPP) — demanded that the Women’s Reservation Bill be cleared during this Special Session of Parliament.
“Even in the all-party meet, we saw that there were only four women representatives and more than 50 men. It is a shame that women, who make up 50% of the population, have such little political representation,” said Pinaki Mishra of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which has been at the vanguard of demanding the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
Agenda still unclear
The government faced a volley of questions about why it is maintaining “secrecy” about the session’s agenda. Several Opposition leaders claimed that it showed the government’s lack of confidence in Parliament.
“Still, no full agenda for the session. There is a sinister line in the Parliament bulletin (released September 13), says that the ‘statement not to be taken as exhaustive’. This means the government can bring more bills, and even today they didn’t clarify what to expect,” Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’ Brien said.
Fifty-one leaders of 34 parties attended the all-party meeting. The government said that eight Bills, four already listed, would come up during the special session.
Many leaders also expressed disappointment at the “late invites” for the flag hoisting function at the new Parliament. It is learnt that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK’s) Tiruchi Siva tore up the invite at the meeting, protesting against the fact that the invites were only in Hindi. He also complained that most of the MPs received their invite for Sunday’s function only in the late evening on Friday. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) member also complained that the government had made no arrangement for Opposition leaders’ participation at the event, since chairs were reserved only for the Ministers.
At the beginning of the meeting, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah suggested that Parliamentarians must pay tribute to the three officers who have been killed in an ongoing encounter with militants in Anantnag in southern Kashmir. A minute of silence was observed at the end of the meeting for the slain officers.
Andhra’s political drama
The all-party meeting was briefly caught up in Andhra Pradesh’s political maelstrom, with a bitter exchange between Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs Ram Mohan Naidu and Jaidev Galla, and the YSR Congress leader Vijay Sai Reddy. It began with Mr. Naidu’s remarks that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken in 2014 of “fast tracking criminal cases against legislators”, adding that there seems to be no progress on that front.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Naidu said, has “eleven CBI cases, seven ED cases and eleven other cases,” and still he continues in the chair. What finally provoked Mr. Reddy was Mr. Naidu’s comment that, “tomorrow even Lalit Modi could aspire to be the Chief Minister.” Pandemonium broke out, with TDP and YSR Congress MPs trading allegations for several minutes. Mr. Naidu also flagged the recent arrest of TDP president Chandrababu Naidu by the State police; he asked the Union government to intervene, saying that “democracy is in peril” in the State.
The Opposition parties have also demanded that the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) two Rajya Sabha MPs and one Lok Sabha MP who have been suspended indefinitely must be reinstated without any further delay.