Opposition, government blame each other for Budget session’s second half washout

While the Lok Sabha had a productivity of 5.29% in the second part of the Budget Session, losing more than 96 hours to disruptions, the Rajya Sabha lost 103.5 hours and had a 6.4% productivity rate.

April 06, 2023 07:53 pm | Updated 09:27 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge, centre, with other opposition Lawmakers take out a protest march from Indian Parliament House on April 6, 2023.

Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge, centre, with other opposition Lawmakers take out a protest march from Indian Parliament House on April 6, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

The Budget session of Parliament concluded according to schedule on Thursday, but the four-week-long second leg of the session got washed out over the Opposition’s demand to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) and the demand from Treasury benches that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi apologise for his ‘democracy under attack’ comment made in London.

The acrimony between the government and the Opposition sharpened after Mr. Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha a day after his conviction in a criminal defamation case by a Surat court on March 23.

Abysmal productivity

Data released by the Lok Sabha Secretariat showed that the House had a 83.8% productivity rate in the first part of the Budget session, which crashed to just 5.29% in the second part. Over 96 hours and 13 minutes were lost to disruptions during the 11th session of the 17th Lok Sabha.

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said that the productivity of the first part of the Budget Session was 56.3%, which plummeted to an abysmal 6.4% in the second part. “Cumulatively, the House productivity was only 24.4%,” he said, adding, “Disruptions claimed 103 hours and 30 minutes of its time.”

Also read: Chilling effect: On defamation, free speech and the Rahul Gandhi case 

Opposition boycott

On Thursday, floor leaders from most of the Opposition parties boycotted the customary tea meeting hosted by the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla that was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Deputy Leader of the House and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Supriya Sule were the only Opposition leaders who attended the meet.

The disruptions on the last day of the session also triggered a blame game between Congress president and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Malllikarjun Kharge and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju. Mr. Kharge blamed the Narendra Modi-led government for the washout while the Law Minister accused the Congress of insulting Parliament by wearing black clothes and that too only for Mr. Gandhi.

Black dress protest

The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die or for an indefinite period, as Opposition members continued their agitation for a JPC probe into the Adani issue. As is the tradition, Mr. Modi was present on the last day when the protests were on. Most BJP MPs were wearing scarves to mark the foundation day of the party. As soon as the House met for the day, Opposition members wearing black clothes trooped into the Well of the House and started shouting slogans and showing placards that read, “We want Adani JPC”.

“You have lowered the dignity of the House. This behaviour is not good for parliamentary system and the country. This House is always for high level of debate and discussions. But you systematically disrupt the proceedings which is not good,” Mr. Birla told Opposition MPs.

“Dignity of the House has to be maintained... The House is for debate and discussions. I always give you enough opportunities to speak,” he added.

After completing his customary valedictory speech and playing of the national song Vande Mataram, Mr. Birla announced the adjournment of the House sine die.

‘Weaponising of politics’

In the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Dhankhar noted that that the session came to a close on a “note of concern” and pointed out that “disorder” has become the new “order”. Between March 13 till the conclusion of the session on Thursday, the Rajya Sabha worked for only 5.75 hours. On the last day as well, the Rajya Sabha functioned for only 28 minutes.

In his concluding address, Mr. Dhankhar said, “Weaponising of politics by stalling 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.”

The Chairman urged members to reflect on the track record and compare it to the 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,” he added.

No discussion on Bills

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal told reporters after the session concluded that the government had wanted to have a discussion on the Finance Bill before it was passed. “We were ready to give up our stand. But they should have also given up their stand. We had a strong stand,” he said, without directly specifying the BJP stand. He noted that the Speaker had called a meeting to defuse the logjam but the Opposition had stuck to its stand.

Mr. Meghwal said that during the full Budget session, which began on January 31, the overall productivity of the Lok Sabha was 34%, and that of the Rajya Sabha was 24.4%. A total of six Bills were passed by the two Houses while eight were introduced, he added. All the bills, including the Finance Bill, were passed amid a din.

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