NEW DELHI: The Parliament will pass the first General Budget of the Narendra Modi Government in the third week of July without the perfunctory department-related standing committees going through the demands for grant of various ministries and making their recommendations.
Perhaps, this is the first time ever since the introduction of the system of standing committees in 1993 that the General Budget would be passed by the two houses of Parliament without the involvement of the panels.
Since the Vote-on-Account approved by the previous Parliament ends on July 31, the new Budget has to be passed by the new Parliament before this date. Compounding the problem of shortage of time is the fact that the standing committees are yet to be constituted. Generally, the Budget session includes a four-week long recess so that standing committees can consider the demands for grants. However, due to shortage of time, the Budget session will have no such break this time.
Sources say the government is prepared to pass the Budget without the standing committees. According to the tentative schedule, the Lok Sabha will take up consideration and passing of the related Appropriation Bill on July 17 and discussion and voting on Demands for Grants (General) of individual ministries will take place from July 21 to 23. Guillotining of outstanding Demands for Grants is scheduled on July 23 at 6 pm and the Finance (No.2) Bill will be considered and passed on July 24.
The guillotine is a parliamentary procedure that allows for curtailing the debates on demands for grants of various ministries to ensure timely passage of the Finance Bill. Though the process of constituting the department-related Parliamentary standing committees has begun, it could be delayed due to the pulls and pressures from various political parties to grab the posts of chairmen of these committees.
There are 24 department-related standing committees covering all the ministries/departments of the Government of India. Each of these Committees consists of 31 Members -- 21 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha -- to be nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, respectively.
Of the 24 committees, eight are usually headed by Rajya Sabha members. Apart from standing committees, there are three financial committees -- Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee and Public Undertakings Committee -- in Parliament.
The Parliamentary Affairs Ministry had asked all parties to nominate their representatives to various standing committees by June 16 so that these panels could be constituted at the earliest. Sources said constitution of these committees is being delayed since some of the political parties are yet to nominate their members, besides being busy lobbying for posts of chairmen.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge met Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu last week to discuss the constitution of the committees. Sources said Venkaiah Naidu is also in dialogue with other political parties.
In the 15th Lok Sabha, the Committee on Estimates was headed by Congress member Francisco Sardinha, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was headed by Dr Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP, and the Committee on Public Undertakings (CPU) was headed by then Congress member Jagadambika Pal. Sources say as a practice, the Congress would get the Chairman post of PAC since it was always given to the Opposition.
Sources say the Congress wants more chairman posts besides that of the PAC. Of the eight department-related standing committees headed by Rajya Sabha members, Congress members were heading four in the 15th Lok Sabha. The Congress wish list includes Chairman posts of committees on Human Resource Development, Health and Family Welfare, Commerce , Industry and personnel, Public grievances, Law and Justice.
Usually, members from political parties are accommodated in the standing committee as per their strength. However, sources say, the government is under pressure this time since many regional parties have greater numbers. The AIADMK and Trinamool Congress, which have emerged as the third and the fourth largest parties in the 16th Lok Sabha, have been asking for their due share not only in committees, but also for bigger rooms in the Parliament House to match their strength.
A senior minister, who did not want to named, said the decision on posts of committee chairmen may solve both problems of forming the committees and of allocation of rooms in Parliament House. Sources say the election of the Deputy Speaker is likely to be scheduled in the Lok Sabha for the third week of July. AIADMK leader M Thambidurai is likely to be elected as Deputy Speaker.