Expect another stormy start to parliament session

Chopper deal, Hindu terror remark and other issues likely to push back key bills


Prasanna Mohanty | February 20, 2013

AugustaWestland chooper deal, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s remarks about Hindu terror, rape allegation against deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien and a host of other controversial issues are likely to overshadow the budget session beginning.

Going by the past experience and the ammunition in the hands of the main opposition party, BJP, this session too is likely to see frequent disruptions and adjournments. One big casualty will be some of the key legislative businesses that the government has lined up, which have an added problem – resistance to adopt them in their present form by several other political parties and state governments.

The chopper deal will obviously raise the biggest storm with the opposition parties showing little interest in the government’s offer for a joint parliamentary probe. Even cancellation of the deal is unlikely to make much of a difference given the growing demand to identify and punish the guilty since the government did precious little in the past one year following the disclosures of corruption in the Italian media. Then there are several other issues like inflation, fuel pricing, attempt to access phone details of leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, collusion of prosecution in the 2G scam, etc.

The government has, in the meanwhile, lined up 35 bills for consideration and passing and many others for introduction and consideration. Some of the key ones relate to food security, amendment to land acquisition law, setting up anti-corruption watchdog Lokpal, reservation in promotion for SCs and STs, reservation for women in legislative bodies and amendment in criminal law to replace the anti-rape ordinance. (see attachment: 'agenda for budget session' for details)

The government tried to take all political parties on board at a meeting held by parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday, which produced little as most opposed these key legislations in their present form - be it food security, anti-rape, anti-corruption, land acquisition or reservations - and pressed for amendments. Nath seemed less convincing when he said the government would try to address some of the concerns. But that will take time. The food bill, for example, has gone back to the drawing board. Demands have already been made to refer the hurriedly issued anti-rape ordinance to a parliamentary panel for a comprehensive deliberation.

In such a scenario, the government would do well to ensure a smooth presentation of the railway budget (scheduled for February 26) and general budget (February 28) and their passage. It would be too ambitious to expect much from the other legislative business on the agenda.



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