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Friday, 25 November 2011

Price rise storm: Both Houses adjourned

The government got a taste of what it could expect during the Winter Session of Parliament with both Houses being adjourned following an uproar over price rise for the second successive day today.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned till noon soon after Question Hour began at 11 am. The Deputy Speaker adjourned proceedings for the day shortly after noon as the uproar continued. The Rajya Sabha has also been adjourned till tomorrow.


The government had braced itself for an acrimonious discussion on price rise and the 2G scam, with the Left as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making their intentions clear.
Both had rejected the statement on inflation by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday, saying the government was only making excuses.


The Left had let it be known that they wanted the Lok Sabha to set aside all other business and had submitted an adjournment motion on the issue. Today, the BJP also submitted an adjournment motion on price rise, along with another on the issue of black money.


The motion is something that entails voting and the government's chief trouble-shooter, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has been trying to buy peace with the Left. He has been trying to persuade them to instead agree to a discussion on price rise, without voting.


A vote in Parliament means that the government will not only need to do some number crunching but it can't be seen against any resolution that condemns price rise.


The BJP had an understanding with the Left that it will back its stand on prices while the Left will support its stand on black money.


Today, the BJP also submitted an adjournment motion on price rise, along with another on the issue of black money. While sources have told NDTV that the issue of price rise will be taken up as a short discussion next week, the BJP will move an adjournment motion on black money tomorrow. Sources added that the government will allow senior BJP leader L K Advani to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha.


Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters yesterday that the Lower House would take up the discussion on the statement of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the price situation.


On Tuesday, the first day of the Winter Session in Parliament, the Opposition boycotted Mr Chidambaram as promised. But the Home Minister didn't blink. On this acrimonious note, the Winter Session began as MPs from NDA drowned out the proceedings the moment Mr Chidambaram stood up to answer questions on Naxalism.


The Left did not support the BJP's move of targeting Mr Chidambaram over the 2G charges, but made common cause over price rise. The Left MPs wanted the Lok Sabha to stop all other work and discuss price rise under provisions that entailed voting, something that makes the government uncomfortable.


But the Speaker, instead, called for the start of the Question Hour with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram giving a written reply as is the norm and this led to an uproar.


The Opposition chose to ignore Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's appeal.


"The government is prepared to discuss all the issues which the Opposition may want to discuss. There is virtually no case for a boycott of the type that has been talked about in the newspapers. I once again appeal to all political parties to work together to give the development agenda of our country a push forward. As you all know, the global economy is facing serious difficulties and if we don't manage our affairs well, we will go down as well," Dr Singh had said.


The BJP says it does not want a logjam but its opposition to Mr Chidambaram remains.
"We will not scuttle the session because we are only opposing Chidambaram, not the government. We will continue to reason with the government to accept our motion on illegal accounts abroad. If the government is adamant, and doesn't concede to reasonable demands, then a logjam is possible," said BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.


Reacting to the PM's call for cooperation from all parties, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley added, "We want to discuss various legislations but cooperation doesn't mean submission to the government. Cooperation does not mean that you accept the government's effort to cover up cases of corruption. That is something we will never do because we need to be honest as an opposition."


On Monday, the government had reached out to the BJP in a desperate attempt to shrug the paralysis tag. Mr Mukherjee called BJP President Nitin Gadkari for lunch but it did little to avoid a government-Opposition relationship breakdown.


The Congress-led ruling UPA, which is to introduce or discuss 54 Bills in less than a month, has appealed to the Opposition to allow working of the House and give Mr Chidambaram a chance to speak.


Crucial among the several key legislations that the UPA government plans to introduce in this session are the Lokpal Bill, Judicial Accountability Bill, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill and Education Bill.


The Lokpal Bill, understandably, is expected to generate much heat and debate. The government has promised anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare that it would make the anti-corruption legislation a reality during this session. Mr Hazare has threatened to intensify his stir if the Centre fails to pass the bill in the Winter Session. On Monday, he reminded the government that he was watching the session closely saying, "The Government should pass a strong Jan Lokpal Bill...If a strong Janlokpal Bill is not passed, we will agitate."

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