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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Session of rancour ends prematurely, battle over farm Bills set to continue

There was intense bitterness and discord during the last four days, with eight Opposition MPs suspended from Rajya Sabha and the Opposition staying away from both Houses on the last day.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | September 24, 2020 1:10:11 am
Parliament Session, Parliament Monsoon Session, Parliament Monsoon Session covid, Monsoon Session covid, Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, India news, Indian ExpressOpposition MPs protest against the farm Bills, at Parliament on Wednesday. (PTI)

The Monsoon session of Parliament, one of the most rancorous and fractious in recent memory, came to a premature end on Wednesday. But the battle between the government and the united Opposition over the two farm Bills that were passed amid massive protests is only expected to intensify, and move to the courts and the streets.

The session, held in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic with extraordinary measures to minimise the spread of the novel coronavirus, ended a week ahead of its scheduled October 1 closing after a large number of MPs tested positive. There was intense bitterness and discord during the last four days, with eight Opposition MPs suspended from Rajya Sabha and the Opposition staying away from both Houses on the last day.

Most Opposition parties have extended their support to a Bharat bandh called by farmers’ groups protesting the two bills on Friday.

The Congress has announced a nationwide agitation, and several other Opposition parties plan to hold street protests. The CPM-led Left government in Kerala and the Congress government in Punjab are planning to move the Supreme Court against the farm Bills.

The Trinamool Congress, one of the most vocal opponents of these bills, plans to showcase it as yet another instance of the BJP government’s “assault” on the rights of states. West Bengal will have Assembly elections in May next year, along with Kerala. The Bihar elections are due in October-November this year, and the Bills, and the way in which they were rammed through in Rajya Sabha, seem to have united the Opposition.

Parties like the SP and AAP, which had been maintaining an arms’ length distance from the Opposition grouping, have rejoined them. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi has joined hands with the Opposition for the first time in the recent past. The NDA suffered a setback with the Shiromani Akali Dal pulling out its Minister and joining the anti farm Bills protests.

The Monsoon session was productive in terms of passage of bills, but was extraordinary in many ways. The passage of the farm Bills in the din without a vote on Sunday led to fierce protests by Opposition members, and the moving of an unprecedented vote of no-confidence against Deputy Chairman Harivansh. The eight suspended MPs sat on a day-night dharna on the premises of Parliament.

With the Opposition boycotting the proceedings, Rajya Sabha passed 15 Bills in two days, including the controversial labour code Bills on Wednesday. “During the 10 sittings, a total of 25 Bills have been passed and 6 Bills have been introduced. The productivity of the House during this Session has been 100.47 per cent. As against the scheduled available time of 38 hours and 30 minutes, the actual functional time of the House has been 38 hours and 41 minutes,” Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said in his valedictory address. The Lok Sabha too passed 25 Bills, and Speaker Om Birla said the productivity of the House was 167 per cent.

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