Gujarat elections may delay winter session of Parliament

Live Mint, November 14, 2017

New Delhi : The upcoming winter session of Parliament is likely to be delayed and there is a good chance that it will be shorter than normal.

Last year, the month-long winter session commenced on 16 November and ended on 16 December, with 22 sittings of both Houses.

To be sure, the final decision will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA). A meeting is likely to be scheduled this week.

Disclosing this, senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) said the session could happen in December because most politicians are busy with the ongoing election campaign in Gujarat.

“There is no clarity on the dates till now. It seems the situation will become clear once Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns from the three-day visit to the ASEAN-India and the East Asia summits. As of now, it seems that the winter session would get pushed to December and would not start in November,” said a senior NDA leader, declining to be named.

The two-phase election in Gujarat is scheduled to take place on 9 and 14 December, while counting is scheduled for 18 December along with the counting of votes for Himachal Pradesh where polling recently concluded.

Senior leaders of the NDA said a large section of parliamentarians, including the Prime Minister, Union ministers and many senior Congress leaders, would be busy in the election campaign in Gujarat which could adversely impact the winter session.

Most of the 37 members of Parliament (MPs) from Gujarat, 26 from Lok Sabha and 11 from Rajya Sabha, would also be involved in campaigning, so there is a view in the Union government that the winter session should be postponed and also should have fewer sittings.

The problem for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is that Congress along with several opposition parties is planning to use the winter session to corner the government on issues of one year of demonetization, alleged problems in the implementation of goods and services tax (GST), and the recent corruption allegations against Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah.

“There has been no consultation by the government with Congress leaders on this issue. The sense we have got is that the session will get delayed and could likely begin towards the end of campaign for Gujarat polls and it could well be a truncated one. We are looking for similar precedents and we will definitely raise our voice against this,” a senior Congress lawmaker said, requesting anonymity.

Former Union minister Manish Tewari, while addressing a press conference on Monday, opposed any move to delay the winter session.

“They truncated the monsoon session and are now looking to reduce the winter session as well. It is not the first time that assembly elections are being held in this country. There is an absolute lack of transparency in this government. There is no intimation from the government and opposition parties are not kept in the loop. The government is scared of discussion in Parliament,” a senior leader from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM said, requesting anonymity.

“It is evident that the winter session is getting delayed because of Gujarat elections. But I do not see this as a substantial reason to delay an entire session. It would have been better if the session had started as per the norm because political parties and people will question why an entire session was delayed,” said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a New Delhi-based political analyst and political science professor at Delhi University.

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