The government may have set its target high for the second leg of the winter session — getting six anti-graft legislations and the Telangana Bill passed — but the Opposition Monday appeared disinclined to let the Congress have its way and drum up the image of its vice-president Rahul Gandhi ahead of general elections. The two Houses are scheduled to meet Wednesday.
Leaders of parties at a meeting convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath expressed their doubts over the government ability to ensure a smooth conduct of proceedings due to the Telangana issue and suggested that it focus on the financial business instead. As various participants, including Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP, Sitaram Yechury of the CPM and Ramvilas Paswan of the LJP argued that the government re-schedule the session from February 17 (instead of February 5) to 21, BJP parliamentary party chairman L K Advani, summing up the points made by them, asked the government to come out with a clear response to the demand.
The government did not reveal its plan, not even on the contentious Telangana issue. The same exercise is expected to be repeated at the Speaker’s meeting with floor leaders slated for Tuesday.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Nath said, “I asked parties to make their stand clear whether they are for corruption or against corruption, whether they are for Telangana or against Telangana… There should be no ifs and buts… Their double-game should be exposed… They can’t be running and hunting together.” He said it was a new trend for parties to scuttle Bills through disruption rather than vote.
Countering him, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “The problem is that it is a lame duck government… Neither their allies, nor their Chief Minister listens to them… That is the reason why the government could not ensure smooth functioning of Parliament in the last two sessions… We have no problem with the Bills the government wishes to bring.”
“Bills slotted for session look like Rahul Gandhi’s poll agenda,” she said, apparently seeking to reason out why the Congress could not expect the Opposition to help him out.
Sources said Swaraj, turning to Nath at the outset at the meeting, said, “We have no objection to Bills, but will Congress MPs allow Parliament to function?” Endorsing her view, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav asked the government to list the financial business first. He said the government could take up other business if the two Houses ran.
At this, Finance Minister P Chidambaram pointed out that even though a vote-on-account covered four months, the process was the same as in the case of a general budget. His ministry was already working overtime to keep an advance deadline of February 17.
Therefore, it was not possible for him to further advance the presentation of the vote-on-account.
This made Ram Gopal Yadav suggest that in that case, the session be scheduled from February 17. He declared that his party will oppose the Telangana Bill as his party had always opposed the creation of new states.
Paswan said the session would witness daily adjournments till the vote-on-account. The idea drew support from Yechury and Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress. “Let the new government come… Let them tackle the issues,” Bandyopadhyay said.
MIM leader Osaduddin Owaisi told the government that it must ensure a structured discussion on the Telangana Bill.
He said the existing legislation was flawed because it placed the Governor in charge of law and order in Hyderabad and talked of an Andhra high court and not Telangana.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.