Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel on Thursday met Opposition leaders, including Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, at their residence in an effort to break the logjam in Parliament.
Goel’s meeting with Azad, V Maitreyan, AIADMK leader in Upper House, and TDP leader Y S Chowdary came after he asserted at a press conference that the government is willing for a discussion on no-confidence motions against it. He said he will meet key Opposition leaders, including from TRS and TMC. Official sources said Goel had an hour-long meeting with Azad and will meet more leaders on Friday.
Second leg of the Budget Session has been a washout in both Houses since it started on March 5. Several parties have been protesting over various issues such as the banking scam, Cauvery board, special status to Andhra Pradesh and quota hike, causing daily adjournments. In a press meet, Goel noted that over Rs 2.5 lakh is spent per minute to run Parliament. The second leg of the Budget Session is of 23 days and all 14 days so far have been wasted, Goel said.
“I have been meeting Opposition leaders in Parliament and will now visit their homes to persuade them to call off their protests and start a discussion on their issues in the two Houses,” he said.
“It is sad that Opposition leaders can debate outside and on TV channels but not in Parliament. It is also strange for some of them to keep protesting in the Well of the two Houses and then say that it is the government’s job to run them,” he said.
The TDP and the YSR Congress have given notices for no confidence motion against the government following the Centre’s stand that it cannot provide special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Protests disrupted proceedings in both Houses for the 14th day in a row on Thursday. In Rajya Sabha, Naidu announced that he had met leaders of parties and it had been decided that the House would take up Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill. Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar moved the Bill and it was passed by a voice vote without a discussion.
The Bill will empower the government to fix the amount of tax-free gratuity and the period of maternity leave with an executive order. Lok Sabha passed it last week. At present, formal sector workers with five or more years of service are eligible for Rs 10 lakh tax-free gratuity after leaving job or at time of superannuation. Passage of the Bill paves way for doubling the limit of tax free gratuity to Rs 20 lakh. After implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, ceiling of tax free gratuity amount for central government employees was increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
The unions have been demanding for inclusion of the change in the Act. Protests erupted the moment the Bill was passed. MPs from TDP and AIADMK trooped into the Well and were joined by Congress members. Naidu said he was adjourning the House because he did not want “ugly scenes”. Proceedings in Lok Sabha were paralysed due to protests by AIADMK and TRS members. MPs from Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties and TDP were seen urging the Speaker to take up the notice for the no-confidence motion. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she could not see anything from her chair and was, hence, not able to take a count of at least 50 members required for the admission of the notice. She then adjourned the House for the day.