All eyes on productivity levels in winter session of Parliament

Of all the sessions of Parliament in the seven years of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime, the monsoon session has seen the worst productivity levels. During this session, Lok Sabha operated just 22 per cent of its functioning hours and Rajya Sabha 28 per cent. The winter session promises to be no better, judging by the stance of the Opposition. And like before, events both inside and outside Parliament will have a role in the way events unfold. Three ordinances must be cleared in the winter session. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment).....
Of all the sessions of Parliament in the seven years of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime, the monsoon session has seen the worst productivity levels. During this session, Lok Sabha operated just 22 per cent of its functioning hours and Rajya Sabha 28 per cent.

The winter session promises to be no better, judging by the stance of the Opposition. And like before, events both inside and outside Parliament will have a role in the way events unfold.

Three ordinances must be cleared in the winter session. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, corrects a drafting error relating to penalties for drug trafficking finance. The passage will likely see discussion but disruptions on this issue are unlikely. 

However, the other two ordinances — the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 — that propose to extend the retirement age of chiefs of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), as well as the foreign, home and defence secretaries, will be opposed strongly. 

Almost every Opposition party is under investigation by the ED either on charges of money-laundering or violation of foreign exchange rules. The ordinance was brought days before the retirement of the present ED chief. 

The Centre is likely to argue that previous governments proposed fixed tenures for heads of investigative agencies, effectively extending their retirement ages. However, those changes flowed out of court orders, following the hawala investigations during the PV Narasimha Rao regime and the Vineet Narayan case judgment. 

“This rush, of promulgating the ordinances three days before the retirement of the incumbent director of ED, is only intended to allow the government to extend the term of the said director, which comes to an end on November 17, 2021. This amounts to a clear abuse of power,” Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said. The party has gone to court on the ordinance.

In the monsoon session, the agitation by farmers was one cause of extensive disruption of proceedings. Parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), anxious to be seen as backing farmers, had got members to turn up in Parliament carrying banners and placards. This stance will be even more aggressive in this session even though the government has repealed the laws, because the Punjab elections are just weeks away.

The promise of events to come was evident at the all-party meeting on Sunday, where the government, represented by parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi and defence minister Rajnath Singh, went over the proposed legislative agenda for the upcoming session. This includes important Bills like the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill and a host of others. 

However, the Opposition noted that the PM had stayed away from all-party meetings (the government said there was no established norm that PMs were supposed to attend all-party meetings before Parliament sessions). AAP leader Sanjay Singh walked out of the all-party meeting, alleging he was not allowed to speak. Singh wanted to raise the farmers’ demand for a law on minimum support prices (MSP). 

“It (government) doesn’t let any member speak during all-party meetings. All it wants to do is hear its own voice” Singh told Business Standard. “We were expecting the Prime Minister to attend the meeting and share something with us. We wanted to ask more about the farm laws as there are some apprehensions that these three laws may again come in some other form,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha.

The extremely vocal Trinamool Congress (TMC) has its own wishlist from the session. Some – like the Pegasus investigation – were raised in the monsoon session as well. But added to the list are unemployment, price rise, including the rising cost of fuel and cooking gas, a law to ensure minimum support price for farmers and the women’s reservation Bill.

However, the Opposition is likely to lose its edge, somewhat: The TMC will not attend the meeting of Opposition floor leaders called by Kharge on November 29 to “create a consensus” on issues to be raised. Many Congress MLAs in Meghalaya had, last week, joined the TMC. Two senior Congress leaders – former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar and Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Deb – have also joined TMC. “The TMC will not attend the meeting of Opposition floor leaders on Monday, but will definitely attend two meetings, one chaired by the Prime Minister and another by the Rajya Sabha chairman,” a TMC leader said.

But this is cold comfort for the government, which is firmly in the sights of the TMC. A stormy session is on the cards.


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PARLIAMENT WINTER SESSION

LOK SABHA

RAJYA SABHA

BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

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