NEW DELHI: Despite the nail-biting finish in which the Aadhaar Bill was sent back to the Lok Sabha, by an unrelenting Opposition, where it was passed, the first half of the Budget session was a far cry from the last two washed-out sessions. Not only did Parliament function but MPs worked late till Wednesday.
The first half of the Budget session was busy and fruitful, marked by the passage of key legislations, like the ‘pro-people’ Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2016 and hard-hitting debates in which everyone from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to young parliamentarians participated with gusto.
Disruptions of House proceeding which had become a leitmotif, were replaced by discussions, both on legislative and non-legislative issues. The discussions on the Railways, Union Budget and Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, with Modi rebutting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s jibes apart, both Houses debated several current issues. Heated exchanges took place on recent incidents at Hyderabad Central University and JNU, on the controversial Aircel-Maxis deal, on the agrarian crisis and the Pathankot terror attacks.
If the debate on higher education institutions, Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU row, spilled over from Parliament into a national debate on nationalism and the ‘anti-national’, it also saw two women politicians, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and BSP supremo, former UP CM Mayawati locking horns in the Rajya Sabha, as never before.
A record number of calling attention motions too were taken up, including one on the alleged alteration of affidavit in the Ishrat Jahan case, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Cultural fest and the breakdown of law and order in Delhi.
The Real Estate bill and the Union Budget, more focused on farmers than industry after three decades of economic reform-oriented budget exercises, had the government’s political score card looking much better than when the session began; the Opposition was not complaining either — they had enough issues with which to corner the treasury. The communication breakdown between the government and opposition that rendered the two previous sessions dysfunctional, was restored to the extent that the Enemy Property Bill was referred to the Rajya Sabha Select Committee, without much rancour. The Whistle Blower’s bill was, perhaps, only casualty, albeit temporarily.
In fact, the restoration of a dialogue between the two sides may ensure the passage of long-pending Goods and Services Tax bill when the session resumes after recess, show-cause notice to Rahul Gandhi over his citizenship issue by the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, notwithstanding.