The final full Budget of the BJP-led NDA government was passed in Lok Sabha Wednesday amid loud protests by the Opposition as the government deployed a procedure called “guillotine” to ensure that all outstanding demands for grants were put to vote at once without discussions.
With MPs from TDP, SP, YSR Congress, TRS and other parties shouting slogans in the well on various issues, ranging from the PNB fraud to the Andhra Pradesh special package, the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill with a spending plan of Rs 89.25 lakh crore were introduced, voted on and passed through voice vote – all within 30 minutes.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved 21 amendments to the Finance Bill, which contains taxation proposals for 2018-19. The Appropriation Bill details plans on how government ministries and departments would spend their money this fiscal. In effect, this year’s Budget exercise is complete. With the Rajya Sabha paralysed this session due to Opposition protests, the Finance Bill, classified as a money Bill, will be considered passed if the Upper House does not return it in 14 days. The government decided to bring the Budget for approval early even though the session is scheduled till April 6.
On Wednesday, MPs from Congress and TMC staged a walkout halfway through the proceedings following vociferous protests over how the Budget was being passed. The SP’s Dharmendra Yadav, who was in the well, was heard shouting to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan: “Don’t stifle the voice of democracy like this.”
This was the first time in years that the Lok Sabha did not discuss and vote on even one demand for grants. In the recent past, Budgets were passed without discussion in 2013-14 and 2003-04 when all demands were “guillotined”. The Appropriation Bill was passed after negating several cut motions moved by Opposition parties.
The Congress called the passage of the Finance Bill as a “black day for democracy”. “The government passed the most important Bill by throttling democracy amid chaos, without any discussion, or debate or exchange of ideas,” Congress whip in the Lok Sabha, Jyotiraditya Scindia, told reporters after the walkout.
The TMC, buoyed by the BJP’s loss in the Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, said the “obstinate” government would sit in the Opposition soon. “Throughout this session, this government has been obstinate. They are just not interested in running Parliament or upholding institutions. Little wonder they will be sitting in the Opposition benches soon enough,” said Derek O’Brien, TMC parliamentary party leader.
Estranged BJP ally TDP was unhappy, too. “The Finance Bill was passed in a one-sided manner. Despite proposing amendments, it is unfortunate that the Speaker did not allow voting,” said party MP Jayadev Galla. Earlier, Congress, TMC, DMK, RJD, SP, NCP and the Left parties were among those that submitted a memorandum to the Speaker, objecting to what they said was the government’s “arrogance and unilateral move to bulldoze all financial business without discussing them in the House”.
The amendments approved by the Lok Sabha included the one providing for “grandfathering of capital gains” accrued on unlisted entities till January 31. It also provided for a methodology for valuation of capital gains. In this Budget, Jaitley revived a tax on long-term capital gains on listed equities — 10 per cent on gains over Rs 1 lakh. However, all gains up to January 31, 2018 will be grandfathered, the Finance Minister had said in the Budget speech.
The Lok Sabha also passed, through voice vote, the fourth batch of supplementary demands for grants for 2017-18. The batch involved cash outgo of Rs 85,315 crore, mainly on compensating states for loss of revenue from the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).