Cong-BJP spar in the RS over Uttarakhand Budget

Krishnanand Tripathi
Congress Member Anand Sharma in the Rajya Sabha on May 10, 2016.

Congress Member Anand Sharma in the Rajya Sabha on May 10, 2016.

Congress today created ruckus in the Rajya Sabha over Uttarakhand issue as well as CAG report which had reportedly pointed out irregularities in Gujarat State Power Corporation’s KG basin gas project, thus forcing early termination of the proceedings of the House.

Due to the disturbances in the House, consideration of the crucial Finance and Appropriation Bills was postponed for tomorrow.

The House, which yesterday saw a virtual washout, managed to conduct business in the pre-lunch session today. However, in the afternoon, Congress members created ruckus over the government move to present the Uttarakhand Budget bill even as the Centre insisted that it was a Constitutional necessity.

As the Upper House met after lunch recess by when the outcome of Uttarakhand confidence motion was clear, Congress members were on their feet shouting slogans against the central government. “Loktantra ke hatyaro, sharm karo (Feel ashamed, you murderers of democracy),” they chanted.

Amidst the din, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien tried to initiate discussion on Union Finance Bill but Congress leader Anand Sharma raised questions over the move to bring the Uttarakhand budget bill in the Supplementary list.

Contending that the state assembly had already passed its budget, he said passing the Uttrakhand budget is not the responsibility of this House” and termed it a “Constitutional impropriety.”

Slamming the “mental and moral bankruptcy of the government”, Sharma also asked why the Uttarakhand budget bill had been brought in the Supplemntary list.

Leader of House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley responded by saying that the passing of the state budget on March 18 was “highly contentious” as the arithematic was highly loaded against it.

He emphasised that the order of appropriation has to be sanctioned by Parliament as all expenditure from April 1 has to be validated.

The Finance Minister said if the state assembly revives, it can pass its budget but insisted that the bill has to be passed to provide sanction to all expenditure made since April 1, when the President’s Rule was in force.

This, he said, has nothing to do with what happened in the floor test in the state assembly today.

However, Sharma and other Congress members appeared not convinced by the argument. Jaitley also mentioned that the state budget had not received the assent of the Governor which is a necessity.

Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien in the Rajya Sabha on May 10, 2016.

Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien in the Rajya Sabha on May 10, 2016.

Kurien said he too was in agreement that the House should pass the Bill to sanction the expenditure during President’s Rule. He also told members that the Bill is a ‘Money Bill’ which would anyway come into force even if Rajya Sabha does not give its nod.

Chiding the protesting members, Kurien said there are people questioning the relevance of Rajya Sabha and by refusing to discuss Bills, they were making it irrelevant.

Congress member Pramod Tiwari, however, said that while the Finance Minister’s assumption is that the Budget was not passed by the state assembly, his party believes it was passed.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the “political point” seemed that the government was keen to pass the state’s budget when the matter was to come before the Supreme Court.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi urged the chair to pass the Bills by voice vote.

Even as no consensus over the Uttarakhand budget issue appeared imminent, Congress member Jairam Ramesh raised the issue related to CAG report on GSPC. He said he had given a notice for a short duration discussion on the issue 11 days back but had got no response.

Other Congress members too then rose on their feet and reached the Well of the House shouting anti government slogans.

SP member Jaya Bachchan then rose and protested that she too had given a notice for discussion on women’s issue three months back and had got no response. She claimed that there are some parties who block proceedings when their discussions are not allowed.

As the ruckus prevailed, Kurien adjourned the house for fifteen minutes till 3 pm.

The same scenario prevailed when the House re-assembled.

When Badnore rose to speak on the Appropriation bill, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad chided him saying, “First apologise for all wrong doings in Uttarakhand”.

Rajiv Shukla (Cong) also said, “Naqvi can apologise for the mistakes.”

Agitated at the continuous ruckus by the Congress, the Treasury Bench members accused the opposition party of “goondaism” and attempting to “hijack” country’s development by not allowing discussion on important Bills.

As ruckus prevailed when Kurien took the Appropriation Bill for the discussion, Congress and Samajwadi Party members sought postponement for tomorrow.

“The Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill and other important bills will be taken up tomorrow and disposed off,” Kurien said before adjourning the House for the day at 4.05 pm.

The discussion on the Appropriation Bill, initiated by BJP leader V P Singh Badnore will continue tomorrow, he added.

Before the House was adjourned for the day, Jairam Ramesh asked about the status of his notice seeking discussion on Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation’s (GSPC) KG basin gas project. To this, Kurien said it is under the consideration of the Chairman.