With 25 Bills, including two financial Bills, listed in a 17-day Winter Session of Parliament, the Opposition parties have expressed concern about the limited time available for any meaningful debate on the proposed legislations. At an all-party meeting held on Tuesday morning, the Opposition pointed out that there would be even less time available to raise any other relevant issues.
The Winter Session of Parliament begins on Wednesday and will go on till December 29. Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the all-party meeting, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chaired it in his absence. the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi were also present. The meeting is called before every session to discuss the legislative agenda.
Most parties criticised the government for trying to hurry through the debates on important legislations. “If we are to remove the time required for procedural stuff, zero hour, question hour and so on, effectively there are only 56 hours available to debate 25 Bills. This is deeply problematic,” said Congress whip in the Rajya Sabha Syed Naseer Hussain. The Congress’ opinon was echoed by many other parties.
The party’s floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also expressed concern over the government not abiding by the agreements arrived at the all-party meeting during the session.
Debate on EC appointment
The party has also demanded a debate on the appointment of former IAS officer Arun Goel as Election Commissioner, in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s rebuke last month regarding the “tearing hurry” of his appointment. A five-judge Constitution Bench observed, “Minister of Law picks up four names from the list of names shortlisted… The file was put up on November 18; moves the same day. Even PM recommends the name on the same day. We don’t want any confrontation, but was this done in any haste? What’s the tearing hurry?”
The party has also demanded a discussion on the 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections. The Congress had initially welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on the quota but later revised its stand on the subject after allies like Dravida Munnetra Kazgham’s forceful arguments against it.
Pending dues to States
The Trinamool Congress, which was represented by its floor leaders in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sudeep Bandhopadhyay and Derek O’Brien respectively, raised the issue of long pending dues to the States . Mr. O’Brien argued that the government was trying to destabilize the States through an economic blockade. He was speaking in the context of the Centre stopping the transfer of ₹7,000 crore worth of funds under the MGNREGA scheme. The party has also demanded a debate on the Meghalaya-Assam standoff.
The Congress and several other parties also questioned the scheduling of the session during Christmas, with Mr. Chowdhary chiding the government for being unmindful of a festival celebrated by a vast population of the country. “I am not asking for curtailing the session but the Winter Session should have started earlier so that people could celebrate it,” he said.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi dismissed the contention that the BJP government was wilfully ignoring Christmas. “There will be a holiday on December 24 and 25 as it is a weekend. It is not fair to say that we will not work after December 25. If the Business Advisory Committee decides to have a holiday on December 26, we don’t have a problem. But the attitude that there should not be work after Christmas is not fair,” he said.