ArrayNew Delhi : Acrimony between the BJP and Congress marked the monsoon session of parliament which concluded on Thursday and had significant legislation on its agenda, including the GST bill.
The session was washed out over the Congress demand for the resignations of three BJP leaders and witnessed the suspension of 25 MPs of the opposition Congress from the Lok Sabha for five days.
The only major debate of the four-week session took place on the Lalit Modi issue on the penultimate day in the Lok Sabha and was marked by sloganeering, interruptions and high-pitched personalised attacks by both leaders of the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.
The constant interruptions during the session, which began on July 21, forced the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to express anguish and pain.
The Congress carried out its protests vociferously inside and outside the parliament and constantly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “silence” on party’s demand for the resignations of three BJP leaders.
The Congress protested through black bands, placards and slogans targeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over their alleged help to Lalit Modi, who is facing an Enforcement Directorate investigation.
The party also pressed for the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
According to PRS Legislative, which tracks work of parliament, productivity for Lok Sabha stood at 48 percent while that of Rajya Sabha at only nine percent.
Question hour functioned for 52 percent of its scheduled time in the Lok Sabha and one percent of its scheduled time in Rajya Sabha.
PRS Legislative said eight of the nine planned bills were introduced but only one of the 12 planned bills could be passed.
The Rajya Sabha lost over 82 hours due to interruptions, the Lok Sabha lost over 34 hours.
With the Congress insisting on “resignation first and discussion later” and the government ruling out any resignations at the beginning of session, the stage was set for a stalemate that could not be broken through meetings convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.
The session saw Congress president Sonia Gandhi coming near the speaker’s podium during a debate on the Lalit Modi issue to protest against a remark by a BJP member which was expunged.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi launched fiery attacks on the prime minister and Sushma Swaraj. The BJP made strong counter-attacks.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 Congress members on August 3 for “willfully obstructing the business of the house” after her repeated warnings not to carry placards and to not come near her podium went unheeded.
The Congress held daily protests for the next four days near the Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the parliament complex to protest the decision. The suspension rallied some other opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal-United behind the Congress.
The session held months ahead of assembly polls in Bihar saw three allies – Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United and Congress – acting mostly in concert.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulalayam Singh Yadav did signal distancing from the Congress but it proved shortlived for the government as his party joined the protests next day to demand the release of caste census.
The Left parties also demanded resignations of three BJP leaders.
The government finally agreed to discuss the Lalit Modi issue under an adjournment motion as demanded by the Congress but the debate seemed to have aggravated the acrimony between the BJP and the Congress.
The Congress decided to continue pressing for the resignation of Sushma Swaraj while the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance took out a march on Thursday against the Congress “for disrupting parliament proceedings”. The two parties have decided to carry out their battle against each other among the people.
While the Lok Sabha saw some bills being passed in the third week during the boycott of the house by the Congress and some other opposition parties over the suspension of 25 MPs, the Rajya Sabha saw daily adjournments forced by the Congress members.
The government lacks majority in the upper house and could not take up the Goods and Services Tax Bill, which is regarded as the biggest tax reform since Independence.
Following the pandemonium in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Speaker asked the Lok Sabha TV to telecast the continuing protests. The house witnessed a paper being torn close the speaker’s chair in the Lok Sabha and the Congress complaining that its protesting members had been “elbowed.”
A notice of breach of privilege was given against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha also witnessed an instance of members of treasury benches displaying placards.
The session also saw BJP making an about-turn on the land bill with its members moving amendments in the joint committee to bring back crucial provisions of the land Act of the UPA government, including those on consent and social impact assessment.
The bill is expected to come up in the winter session of parliament.