Winter session of Parliament likely from 19 November

Livemint, October 22, 2015

The government is likely to convene the crucial winter session of Parliament from 19 November.
The proceedings are likely to be influenced to a great extent by the outcome of the ongoing elections to the Bihar assembly; the results will be declared on 8 November.

The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA) met on Wednesday and decided that a final call on the dates for the winter session will be taken on 26 October. The committee also chalked out a plan to observe 19 November as Constitution Day and discussed the possibility of holding a day-long debate on the making of the Constitution. CCPA also took stock of 53 bills pending in the Rajya Sabha.

The last Parliament session in this year is likely to be stormy for the government as opposition parties are planning to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the recent spurt in communal violence, including the lynching of a 50-year-old man in Dadri, issues related to beef bans and the torching of two sleeping Dalit children in Faridabad on Tuesday night.

Senior leaders of the opposition Congress party have indicated they will be reaching out to like-minded political parties to create a united front to corner the government. Congress leaders also want to raise issues related to the recent attack on journalist and former BJP member Sudheendra Kulkarni, the killing of rationalist M.M. Kalburgi and the move by several writers to return their Sahitya Akademi awards to the government in protest over rising intolerance.

However, a senior BJP leader said, ?Instead of criticizing the Union government and trying to block development by not allowing Parliament to function, it is for the Congress party to explain why Kalburgi was murdered because it happened in Karnataka, it is for Samajwadi Party to explain what happened in Dadri. Both these states are ruled by parties that are in the opposition at the Centre, and by blaming the NDA government at the Centre they will not be able to escape their responsibility.?

Members of the NDA argue the government is also in a difficult spot because three crucial alliance partners?the Shiromani Akali Dal, Telugu Desam Party and Peoples Democratic Party?have openly criticized some BJP leaders for what is seen as their out-of-turn comments after visiting Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.

It took a rebuke from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley to rein in these BJP members of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the government, on its part, is likely to push its economic reform agenda in this session and will try to build a consensus on the passage of a constitutional amendment bill to allow a goods and services tax. The crucial bill was expected to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, but the government failed to build consensus on it.

Much of the monsoon session was also disrupted because of corruption allegations levelled against foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Another crucial bill pending before Parliament is the controversial land acquisition bill. The joint parliamentary committee is likely to give its report on the bill on the last day of the first week of Parliament. Also pending are the real estate bill, the factories amendment bill and the juvenile justice care and protection of children bill. Among crucial bills which may be taken up for discussion in Parliament are the bankruptcy code bill, and amendments to the RBI Act to set up a Public Debt Management Authority and a Monetary Policy Committee.

?The result of the Bihar elections will play a crucial role in the way winter session of Parliament shapes up. There have been a spate of incidents since the previous monsoon session and now, including certain communal incidents, the beef controversy and Sahitya Akademi winners returning their awards?which I think is the most potent issue for cultural rights, and will be used by the opposition parties to attack the government,? said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

?The Bihar elections are crucial because the BJP?s electoral success is directly linked with the performance in Parliament. If they win, the Modi-led government will get a new lease of life in Parliament because they are already out of breath on several issues; but if they lose, the entire opposition will enter into a process of uniting?a political unity…in the winter session,? he added.

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