Demonetisation decision wrecked Winter Session

RSTV Bureau

Government’s sudden demonetisation decision wrecked the Winter Session making it one of the worst in terms of the level of disruptions witnessed in recent times as Parliament wrapped up the year struggling to find a balance that will enable transaction of work.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Md. Hamid Ansari reads out his valedictory speech on the last day of the Winter Session of the Parliament, Dec 16 2016.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Md. Hamid Ansari reads out his valedictory speech on the last day of the Winter Session of the Parliament, Dec 16 2016.

The raging political storm over demonetisation may even spill over, given the confrontation between the ruling and opposition benches, into the Budget Session which will see advancing of the presentation of the General Budget on February 1.

Rahul Gandhi’s recent attack accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of personal corruption is likely to add fuel to the fire which turned the Winter Session as one of the least productive period in Parliament’s recent history.

While the ties between Modi dispensation and Opposition were never that cordial, the dramatic demonetisation decision on November 8 widened the growing chasms like never before.

Continued disruptions saw the Prime Minister not speaking a single word on the issue either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha amid conflicting claims from rival sides.

Cash-notes-ThaneModi and BJP time and again complained that the Prime Minister was not being allowed to speak while the Opposition hit back charging him with running away from debate in order to avoid inconvenient questions.

He has all the time to address a pop concert but no time for Parliament, was the refrain of the detractors of the Prime Minister.

Opposition also alleged that the ruling side deliberately created an uproar on days when Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi planned to target the government especially Modi.

A highlight of the year was government approving the merger of Railway Budget with Union Budget, an issue which had long been debated in the past but never implemented.

Plans are afoot to advance the Budget Session and present the Union Budget 2017-18 on February 1, dispensing with the age old practice of carrying out the exercise on February 28.

With the chill setting in government-Opposition ties, the last session of Parliament in the year hardly saw any legislative action except for the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disability Bill by both the Houses.

New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with Opposition leaders at Parliament, New Delhi, December 14, 2016. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with Opposition leaders at Parliament, New Delhi, December 14, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Significantly, this legislation was cleared after a brief debate with a rare bonhomie, which was missing from the entire Winter Session.

In March, weeks before the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections, Narada News released videos that showed several TMC leaders including its MPs accepting cash in return for promising to grant favours to a fictitious company.

The Lok Sabha’s ethics committee headed by BJP veteran L K Advani sought an explanation from five Trinamool Congress MPs in the matter but the whole issue appears to have been put in cold storage.

AAP leader in the Lok Sabha Bhagwant Mann created a flutter by his videography of Parliament complex putting its security at risk. He was suspended from the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session till the end of the session.

In May, Parliament was rocked after Vijay Mallya fled to the UK, an issue taken up aggressively by the Opposition to corner the government over the fugitive businessman who owes some Rs 9000 crore to Indian banks.

The suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad Central University and JNU row dominated Parliament proceedings for some time with Opposition targeting the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani.

The year later saw Prakash Javadekar being made the HRD Minister apparently to cool off tempers.

File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his cabinet colleagues talking to the media during the opening day of the winter session of parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday.

File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his cabinet colleagues talking to the media during the opening day of the winter session of parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday.

However, it was virtually business as usual in the Monsoon session and the Budget session. The Monsoon Session saw passage of the GST bill and unanimous resolutions in both Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on Kashmir.

The Budget Session also saw the Opposition and treasury benches giving credit to each other for introducing and piloting the Real Estate Bill.

Government changed its chief floor manager by bringing in Ananth Kumar as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister ahead of the Monsoon Session in place of M Venkaiah Naidu.

2016 was more productive compared to 2015 which had seen persistent disruptions during two sessions over a host of issues including Lalit Modi and Vyapam scam.

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