Confident that it had secured a win in the trust vote in the Uttarakhand Assembly, a belligerent Congress in Rajya Sabha blocked the Centre’s attempt to pass the state’s budget, which has to be approved by Parliament due to the President’s Rule.
The Congress said it would allow the Appropriation Bill for Uttarakhand to be passed, but only on Wednesday, the day the Supreme Court is expected to announce the outcome of the floor test.
The state has been under President’s Rule since March 27, and the government had issued an ordinance on March 31 to ensure that the state’s expenditures in the new financial year had legal sanctity.
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Later, the Ordinance was put up for Parliamentary approval, as required, in the form of the Appropriation Bill. The Lok Sabha has already approved the state budget. In the Rajya Sabha, all parties had agreed to pass the Bill Tuesday. But, soon after the Assembly floor test, the Congress apparently sensed an opportunity to embarrass the government on the matter.
The opposition party first tried to postpone a discussion by claiming the Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker had already declared that the budget had been passed on March 18, and Parliament could not challenge the Speaker’s decision.
“It is very clear that that you cannot interfere in the functioning of the legislature or comment adversely against the presiding officer. That is the Constitution … Today the legislators (of Uttarakhand Assembly) have voted. The verdict is very clear. Now, leave it to the Uttarakhand Assembly. Stop insulting them now,” Anand Sharma, deputy leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, argued that it was essential for Parliament to approve the Appropriation Bill irrespective of the result of the floor test. At that point, Congress members demanded that the Bill be deferred for discussion till Wednesday.
“Let us wait till tomorrow. It will be decided in the Supreme Court tomorrow whether the imposition of President’s Rule in the state was right or not. Let us have a discussion on this Bill after that,” said Congress’s Pramod Tiwari.
With the government still insistent on getting the Bill passed, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh asked why a notice for discussion given by him on a corruption case 11 days ago had still not been decided. Congress MPs used this to troop to the Well, forcing a 15-minute adjournment.
As the House met again, the Congress, along with MPs from some other parties, again asked for the discussion to be deferred till Wednesday.
While MoS Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told the Chair that the Bill must be discussed and passed even if it required a late-night sitting, HRD Minister Smriti Irani accused the Congress of holding Parliament to ransom.
While Deputy Chairman P J Kurien allowed the discussion to begin, Congress members immediately protested and forced another adjournment. As the floor leaders moved backstage for a meeting, it was finally decided that the Uttarakhand budget would be discussed Wednesday.