MPs salary FM steps in to end deadlock

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The Economic Times, August 22, 2010

The deadlock over the salary for members of Parliament was resolved on Saturday with UPA government?s trouble shooter finance minister Pranab Mukherjee stepping in to talk with agitating members of Parliament.

In the morning, before the start of business, the finance minister held a meeting with representatives of the political parties to find a solution to the issue. The government is understood to be marginally increasing the hike, particularly the allowances as a move to placate the MPs. Order was restored in the Lok Sabha, which had witnessed unruly scenes on Friday, after the meeting. The Lok Sabha functioned and business was conducted on Saturday.

On Friday, MPs had expressed their displeasure over the three-fold hike in salary, as approved by the Cabinet. They demanded a 500 per cent raise. Their agitation brought the Lok Sabha to a stand still and the house had to be adjourned on Friday.

The morning meeting with Mr Mukherjee was attended by JD(U) leader Sharad yadav, RJC chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, SP?s chief Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) , Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, BJP leader Arun Jaitley and BJP leader Gopinath Munde, BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan and NCP boss Sharad Pawar. Left leaders were unable to make the meeting.

Sources said that Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav apologised for the scenes in the Lok Sabha on Friday, saying that such a situation should have come to pass as it lowered the dignity of the House. In the Lok Sabha on Friday, the RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav held mock Parliament proceedings after the House was adjourned following an uproar demanding further pay hike for MPs.

At the same time, the leaders made it clear that the government had been at fault over the manner in which it passed the MCI Bill in the din. The government accepted the error of its ways and has agreed to a discussion on the matter under Rule 193. Sources said that the government had also assured that suggestions made during the discussion would be considered for inclusion in the Bill.

At the meeting, the JD(U) has echoed the Left by suggesting an independent mechanism be set up to decide on the salaries of MPs. ?It is not correct that MPS themselves decide on the salary hikes. It should be done by a mechanism outside of Parliament? the JD(U) leader said.

Mr Sharad Yadav has suggested to the finance minister that the government constitute the independent mechanism on the lines of the pay commission for government servants, to periodically review the salary of MPs and recommend hikes.

The Left parties have taken a consistent position that it would not be appropriate for the lawmakers to decide upon their pay and allowances and the job should be entrusted to an independent body. BJP leader Arun Jaitley said that his party was in agreement with the government however salaries of the lawmakers should be linked to some indices.

Mr Lalu Prasad insisted on a hike to ensure smooth functioning of the house. After the meeting the RJD chief that the matter regarding the salary hike has been ?resolved?. ?The house will now function as per rules,? he said. The SP and JD-U leaders also sought hike in salaries in line with recommendations of a parliamentary committee. The leaders said after the meeting that the issue of hike had been left to Mukherjee who will hold further discussions.

The salary hike bill cleared by the cabinet Friday was to be introduced in the Lok Sabha Saturday but wasn?t included in the revised list of business. The bill is likely to be introduced next week.

The Cabinet had approved raising an MP?s salary from Rs.16,000 to Rs.50,000 and double their perks, but parliamentarians from various parties were dissatisfied and said it was less than the Rs.80,001 recommended by a parliamentary committee.

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