Parliament’s Budget Session last week appeared drawing to a close after the Lok Sabha approved the Finance Bill, 2023 containing tax proposals for 2023-24, while adopting Budgetary demands of Central Ministries, and clearing the Appropriation Bill for Government expenditure out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
As the two Houses of Parliament adjourned to meet on Monday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha was announced by its Secretary-General on Friday. The disqualification had followed his conviction in a defamation case by a Surat court, a day earlier. The first week of the Budget Session’s second part was a near wash-out, except for the presentation of official papers and some announcements.
There was an expectation that the second week of Budget Session would see some wordy battles over the Budget details, as MPs are always keen to have their say on the Budget proposals. Despite the mood of confrontation between the Government and the Opposition, a possibility could not be ruled out that members would speak on tax proposals, price-rise or performance of different Central Ministries.
A point of claim and counterclaim during the Budget discussions was always the rate of GDP growth rate. Instead, the last week replicated the previous one in disturbances and adjournments due to shouting by both Treasury Benches and the Opposition.
It was surprising the ruling BJP members remained stuck on the demand for an apology by Mr Gandhi for his speeches in the UK, rather than speak on the transformation that the government’s financial policies had brought in the country. All financial Bills were rushed through in the Lok Sabha without even a minute’s discussion.
The financial Bills are called Money Bills and they are primarily introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha and then transmitted to the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States. The Council has been duly informed of the financial Bills passed by the Lok Sabha and their copies were laid on its official table. If the Rajya Sabha is not able to return the Bills to the Lok Sabha within 14 days of receiving them due to its on-going logjam, the Bills will be deemed to have been passed by both Houses.
So, there can be no doubt now that the Union Budget 2023-24 has received the Parliamentary sanction it required. No doubt, Parliament has risen to great heights on many occasions while discussing various issues concerning the country like foreign threats, farmers’ plight, droughts or floods, or super-cyclones. The price-rise debates brought out the state of poverty in different States.
The Adani issue which the Opposition insisted for discussion for another week, could have been sought for discussion under another Rule, if the Chairman was not accepting it under Rule 267. The frequent rejection of the notices for the Adani debate under Rule 267 for one infirmity or the other, could have provoked the Opposition to examine other rules for a possible debate on the subject. Similarly, the Treasury Benches in the Rajya Sabha could wait how the Lower House resolved the issue of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s comments in the UK, and then sought a solution in their House on similar lines.
Till his disqualification last Friday, Mr Gandhi was a member of the Lok Sabha. Shouting of slogans every time the two Houses assembled for work deprived the MPs of any chance to have their say on many issues, and certainly many MPs were waiting to speak on some subjects if their House returned to order. Even a limited debate on the Finance Bill could have generated many queries from MPs.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman could elaborate and answer some questions on the committee she proposed to set up the pension system for government employees. A large number of official amendments were moved in the Finance Bill. Their details and implications would have brought clarity. The government secured Parliamentary approval for a Rs 45 lakh crore expenditure during 2023-24 without even nominal queries by MPs on from where the money was being raised and how were the poor, the low-salaried or senior citizens to benefit from the expenditure.
Or how the country’s defence needs were being well taken care of. As the two sides showed no sign of reconciliation, and got back to making speeches, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said on Friday: “Where is that humour? Where is that wit? Where is that sarcasm which we don’t share?”