Three working days to go, Opposition shows urgency about starting debate

Meanwhile, the protests continue; Opposition to observe ‘black day’ today.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: December 8, 2016 2:43:16 am
lok sabha, lok sabha debate, lok sabha holiday, lok sabha demonetisation, india news (Source: File)

A black badge dharna, a joint press conference and a “black day”— Opposition parties have lined up elaborate programmes on completion of a month of demonetisation but, at the same time, also showed a sense of urgency about getting a discussion started in Lok Sabha. Monday has been declared a holiday for Lok Sabha, followed by another holiday Tuesday, which means just three working days are left if one takes out the two Fridays when private members’ bills are to be discussed.

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A stalemate persists on the rule under which a discussion can take place in Lok Sabha, with the Opposition adamant about a rule with provisions for voting. In Rajya Sabha, most major parties have already participated in a discussion on demonetisation but the House has since been in limbo, first over a demand that the prime minister sit through the discussion, then over another that he apologise for comments made outside.

With time running out, the Congress has submitted a draft motion that Opposition sources described as “softer”. The fresh draft still includes the words “financial emergency” but sources said it avoids the strident note an earlier one had struck, sources say.

Yet the draft insists on a discussion under rule 184, which entails voting, rather than under rule 193, which does not. Technically, a discussion under rule 193 has already started with the Speaker having called in the first speaker, Jithender Reddy (TRS). “If the Speaker wants, she can still abort this discussion and take up one under rule 184,” said an Opposition MP present in two Opposition strategy meetings Wednesday.

Can Lok Sabha transact some business Thursday? “I am not ruling it out,” said an Opposition leader, “but whatever we do, we will decide it together and execute it together.” Others said there may be little business transacted for the rest of this week.

A final call will be taken Thursday morning. Strategy meetings are being attended by all Opposition parties — Congress, Trinamool, CPI, CPM, JD (U), DMK, SP, BSP, AIUDF etc.

“We have submitted a revised motion to the Speaker but the ball is now in the government’s court. They are being extremely obstinate. We will decide the day’s strategy tomorrow morning,” said Anand Sharma, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha.

“Wait and watch. Opposition parties want a discussion. It is the BJP which is stalling. It is the government’s responsibility to run Parliament,” said Trinamool Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien.

Sources said the government has informally reached out to the Opposition and assured it of the prime minister’s presence and claimed the Speaker has indicated a revision of the rule for the discussion is not impossible.

On Thursday, all opposition MPs will hold a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue in Parliament with black badges. Subsequently they will address the media jointly.

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