Functioning of Parliament is
Standard, September 02, 2012
BJP has stalled
Parliament session for a week, demanding PM Manmohan Singh?s
resignation. Is the monsoon session going to be a washout, or
there is a scope for compromise?
I cannot talk about
compromise for the simple reason that instead of reaching out to
the Opposition, the government and its leader Sonia Gandhi have
called upon party members to become more aggressive; a
compromise at the moment is meaningless. Compromises have been
arrived at in the past, when we were in the government. We had
reached out to the Opposition, but we never adopted an
aggressive attitude. It is a peculiar situation in which the
ruling party is more belligerent. So, what compromise are we
BJP has demanded
all coal blocks should be de-allocated. Can this be done?
Let?s take an
example. The government issued 122 2G licences and, by a Supreme
Court order, these licences were cancelled, and the apex court
directed licences should be auctioned. Now, there was a theory
of zero loss propagated by Kapil Sibal and his own ministry
fixed the reserve price for an auction at Rs 14,000 crore for
each licence. If it is calculated at Rs 14,000 crore for nine
all-India licences, it works out to about Rs 1,26,000 crore,.
But if it goes beyond that, we are very close to the figure of
loss given by CAG.
Similarly, on our
insistence, if these coal block allocations are cancelled and
auctioned, and anyone can bid in the auction and win the coal
blocks, this estimated loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore by CAG could
BJP has always
said debates and discussions should be allowed in Parliament,
but now it is blocking proceedings of the House. Is this a
change in strategy?
No, we have always
believed in debate and discussion, but the point I would like to
make is there are issues for which the sentiment of the people
outside the House have to be reflected in Parliament.
Obstructing Parliament is a recognised tactic and the Congress
party adopted this freely when it was in Opposition. They are
now preaching us the values of democracy. The functioning of
Parliament is the responsibility of the government. It is their
responsibility to reach out to the Opposition and take their
grievances on board. As far as the people are concerned, there
is a larger debate among them and they are the ultimate ones to
elect people to the Lok Sabha.
of the PM means the entire Cabinet has to be reconstituted. Is
the demand achievable? Is the BJP trying for a mid-term poll?
We are trying to
ensure constitutional and parliamentary accountability. The
Prime Minister, as coal minister, permitted loot of natural
resources. He was the minister in charge, and this is the
distinction we should always keep in mind. Every coal block has
been allocated under his signature, so who is accountable to
Parliament in our democracy? The minister in charge, who happens
to be the PM. So, it is not that the government can sacrifice A
Raja and Dayanidhi Maran. It is not merely some other minister
who has to take the blame, but it is the PM. Therefore, we are
demanding his resignation.
regime had started this discussion on foreign direct investment
(FDI) in retail, but now the party is opposing it? Will the BJP
agree to it if the government gives some concessions?
Yes, there was a
discussion, but no decision. There was a discussion on
permitting FDI in retail, but, in view of the Opposition from
various stakeholders we didn?t go ahead with it. I would also
like to point out in December 2002, the then chief whip of
Congress party in Lok Sabha, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, raised this
matter in zero hour and said bringing FDI in retail would be an
anti-national step. So, when we are talking about a change in
position, I will say if anyone has changed position it is the
Congress party. We have looked at it de novo and we feel it is
Crucial Bills like
those on PFRDA, insurance, and banking laws are pending for a
long time, as is the Land Acquisition Bill. How can reforms
happen if Parliament doesn?t function?
PFRDA was initiated
during our time and we have always supported this Bill. In fact,
we had a discussion with former finance minister Pranab
Mukherjee and we told him if they accepted the recommendations
of the standing committee on finance, we would support the Bill.
Everything was agreed. He even sent a senior officer of his
ministry to sit with me and work out the draft amendments which
the government would put forward. But then, their own coalition
partner, Trinamool Congress, opposed it. The Insurance Bill is
not even listed in the list of Bills to be passed in this
session, but the one on banking is. Now, taking a view of the
financial sector, we should confine ourselves to 26 per cent FDI,
whether in insurance, banking or PFRDA. BJP agrees with the
views of the standing committee on finance. We are not in favour
of 49 per cent FDI in insurance and pension, and if the
government insists on bringing in this legislation, we have no
option but to oppose it.
Similarly, the land
acquisition was introduced, it went to the standing committee
and has come back. Cabinet ministers of this government, even of
the Congress party, are opposing the provisions of that Bill.
So, who is responsible for the delay in these Bills? It is not
merely the paralysis of decision-making, I don?t know how to
describe this. The government takes a view, brings legislation
to Parliament and then takes it back.
has said the DTC Bill would be reworked.
The DTC Bill was
drafted by the finance ministry after receiving suggestions and
then, it was brought to Parliament. The Bill was referred to the
standing committee on finance. We gave our report one week
before the Budget was presented on March 9 this year and now,
the finance minister is saying he would have another look at the
DTC. So, who is delaying the Bill? And, we have to go through
the whole rigmarole again because they consider changing the
provisions of the Bill, which was not recommended by the
standing committee. Then, it would have to be brought back to
the standing committee, like the Companies Bill, which would
delay the whole thing.
DTC was actually
started by P Chidambaram and then Pranab Mukherjee came and
finalised it in his own light. But it is not a question of one
particular finance minister or one minister; the government
functions on the basis of collectivity, and all these things go
to the Cabinet before these come to Parliament. So, what was the
Cabinet doing? Chidambaram is the finance minister of the same
government, so he can?t rubbish what PM and finance minister did
Finance Minister P
Chidambaram has said the GST Bill would be tabled before the end
of this financial year. Is it a possibility?
The GST Bill, which
is under the consideration of the standing committee; I was very
keen to present the Bill in this session. But we didn?t get the
reply of the finance ministry in time. So, that is why the Bill
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