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Parliamentary affairs: Washed out session ends with drama, resignations

Deepak Razdan | New Delhi |

Parliament’s Budget Session ended last week, after the completion of its second part, of  five-weeks, although there were doubts if the Housewould sit till the last, looking at disruptions every day.

The Lok Sabha disposed of its main agenda, the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bills, and conveyed the message to the Rajya Sabha.

The Upper House bid farewell to about 60 retiring Elders, and welcomed 55 new members, including some who were re-elected.

A rare opportunity to discuss the overall performance of the Government came up in the form of no-confidence motion notices in the Lok Sabha, but this was wasted, as members from the AIADMK shouted slogans in the Well of the House for several days and blocked the proceedings. Their protest did not let Speaker confirm the required number of 50 members for supporting the notices.

Members of the Telugu Desam Party and the Congress Party, and other parties, which had given the no-confidence notices, kept standing at their seats to press for their acceptance, but the Speaker ruled she could not proceed unless there was order in the House.

The Government and the Opposition kept blaming each other over the situation and  the impasse could not be resolved till the last.

Compared to the fairly high productivity of the two Houses in the first part of the session, the Lok Sabha’s productivity in the second part was about four per cent and that of the Rajya Sabha eight per cent.

Despite the absence of structured discussions, however, the Parliamentary air remained thick with the heat generated by Tamil Nadu MPs over the Cauvery water issue  and by the Andhra Pradesh MPs over the Special Category Status for their state. They never missed any chance to walk into the Wells and carry placards to announce their demands.

The Congress, the Trinamul Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, too, shouted to raise the issues of the loot of banks’ money by business houses, and the protection of Dalits after the “dilution” of the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, but they kept calm on several occasions to let business proceed.

Even during the farewell speeches in the Rajya Sabha, AIADMK and TDP leaders raised their issues. Demanding the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board, the Tamil Nadu members hoped their state would get justice and its legitimate share of Cauvery water. On the last two days of the session, TDP members first stayed put in the Rajya Sabha chamber after its adjournment for the day, and then in the Lok Sabha chamber and the Speaker’s official room, before being evicted from there.

To beat rival TDP on the Special Status issue, five YSR Congress Party Lok Sabha members from Andhra Pradesh submitted their resignations to the Speaker on Friday.

Proceedings in the two Houses, it was clear, could not have been normal without an understanding between the Government and the protesting parties. When Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien threatened to invoke rules to suspend members blocking proceedings by shouting in the Well, there were cries of “No,” and more members entered the Well.

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu noted that “a total breakdown in communication among various sections of the House” was at the root of “the prolonged stalemate that ruined this important session,” while he reminded members they must ‘debate and decide’ and not “disrupt and derail”.