The Hindu, November 21, 2017
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday described the Congress’s attack on the government for allegedly delaying the winter session of Parliament as a “chorus of baseless allegations”.
Responding to charges levelled by the party’s parliamentary office-bearers, Mr. Prasad said, “The love demonstrated by the Congress for Parliament comes as a pleasant surprise since the party has made it a point to run away from parliamentary debate whenever the chance arose.”
“The Congress said it wants to debate demonetisation and the Goods and Services (GST) tax in Parliament, but whenever there was a debate scheduled, they would walk out. They would speak outside Parliament, not within,” he said. “On surgical strikes [Congress vice-president] Rahul Gandhi demanded proof. When the government asked why there was a question on the valour of the Indian Army, he walked out.”
Past instances cited
Mr. Prasad cited Article 85 of the Constitution that said the gap between two sessions of Parliament was to be less than six months, and therefore, the matter was within norms. “There are several instances where previous governments have kept dates of sessions flexible. On two occasions, under the term of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Congress-supported government of Chandra Shekhar, the winter session was held after Christmas. We know how to respect Parliament. It was the Congress under Indira Gandhi that extended the term of Parliament during the Emergency from five to six years, because she didn’t want to face the people,” he said.
“Canvassing for polls has been used as a reason to keep winter session dates flexible even in 2008 under the UPA I.”
He asked if the Congress was willing to give an undertaking that its president, Sonia Gandhi, and its future president, Rahul Gandhi, would attend Parliament and not participate in the Gujarat poll campaign if the session was called during that period.
He criticised the Congress for making an issue of Prime Minister Modi’s use of an Indian Air Force aircraft while travelling for campaigning.
IAF aircraft on poll duty
“This issue had been settled in the past when it had been raised in the context of previous Prime Ministers. Since the Prime Minister is a Special Protection Group (SPG) protectee, he is allowed the use of these aircraft. It is surprising that this question was not raised during the 16 years of Indira Gandhi, five years of Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh’s 10 years as Prime Minister. It is a problem only when Narendra Modi does it,” he said.
“Mallikarjun Khargeji said that PM Narendra Modi is “Brahma” to know when session will start. His problem is that he comes from a party where there is a divine right of one family to the top position. Thus he comes up with these metaphors. PM Modi is the creator of a new rising India,” he said.