NEW DELHI

Budget session proves to be a damp squib

NEW DELHI, AUG. 1. Except for excitement about presentation of the budgetary proposals, the subsequent roll back and passage of the budget, the ongoing session of the Delhi Assembly has turned out to be a damp squib. If the ruling party did not have much of an agenda, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party failed to capitalise on the opportunities to corner the Government on several occasions.

Never before had the Sheila Dikshit Government had such a smooth sailing in the Assembly session as the BJP with an increased strength over the last Assembly failed to rake up issues properly. The fissures in the BJP Legislature Party also came to the fore as the floor coordination inside the House left a lot to be desired. As one of the party MLAs remarked: "What was discussed in the morning meetings was never taken up seriously and some other issues were suddenly taken up in the House by the senior leaders without taking all the MLAs into confidence. This reflected on the lack of seriousness in raising issues effectively. Most of the time, the BJP MLAs either walked out of the House or boycotted proceedings thereby giving an opportunity to the ruling party to go ahead with their agenda. Despite shortcomings in the replies given by the Ministers inside the House on many occasions, the absence of an Opposition allowed them to get away.''

The party tried to make the budget leaks a big issue and even rushed towards the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor, B.L. Joshi, to demand dismissal of the Finance Minister, A.K. Walia. However, the Leader of the Opposition, Jagdish Mukhi, did not get full support from his legislatures inside the House and another senior party leader, Harsh Vardhan, switched over to the issue of construction of slaughter house at Ghazipur indicating confusion in the BJP ranks. Interestingly, on many occasions, question hour was not utilised effectively by the Opposition especially on the issue of provision of 20 per cent quota for the free treatment of the poor at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and 40 per cent free OPD facility raised by Ramvir Singh Bidhuri (NCP). The reply by the Health Minister, Yoganand Shastri, left a lot of be desired. The BJP failed to take up the issue effectively and corner the Government on this aspect.

Apart from the election of the new Speaker, Chaudhary Prem Singh, who returned back the Old Secretariat complex for a second tenure, the real revelation has been the Deputy Speaker, Shoaib Iqbal. Mr. Iqbal's firm handling of the proceedings of the House for the past few days has certainly prevented the proceedings from taking an ugly turn. His refusal to buckle under any kind of pressure from the BJP and issuing stern warnings to those trying to disrupt the proceedings of the House made Mr. Iqbal stand out. The Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, as usual handled various situations with ease and did not have any problem in rebutting the Opposition charge on the issue of water and power shortage. However, the floor coordination of the ruling party needs to be improved to prevent any kind of embarrassment in the future. The Chief Whip, Ramakant Goswami, has to ensure proper coordination among the MLAs, as it is the duty of the ruling party to ensure that the House is not adjourned due to lack of quorum, something that happened on July 30. The interaction levels between the Chief Whip and the MLAs need to increase substantially and a better mechanism needs to be put in place for this purpose. The Chief Minister cannot be expected to intervene every time in such matters. The session will end on August 3 after the motion of thanks on the Lieutenant-Governor's address.

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