Jairam Ramesh, Congress Chief Whip Rajya Sabha, speaks to Manoj C G
The Monsoon Session ended four days ahead of schedule.
The government did not have much of a legislative agenda. Obviously they were not in any urgency to pass any Bill. The Bills passed by Lok Sabha, such as the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill and the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, could easily have been passed by Rajya Sabha this Wednesday. I was prepared to participate in the discussion on the Wild Life Bill… Normally what happens is that when Bills are passed by the Lok Sabha they come to the Rajya Sabha immediately. But this time around the government didn’t seem to have the appetite for continuing the session till Friday, with two holidays (Tuesday and Thursday) in between.
In his valedictory address, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said that in the 16 sittings of the House, business could be conducted only for some 35 hours, whereas over 47 Hours were lost due to interruptions
These are numbers that can be read either way. The fact of the matter is the government took two weeks to agree to a discussion on price rise and GST hike. Had they agreed on the first day, we would have had a productive session throughout. But for two weeks they kept delaying and delaying…and that really washed out and unfortunately set the tone for the entire session. And they didn’t agree to a discussion on the Agnipath scheme.
The government agreed to hold only one discussion
They didn’t agree to a discussion on Agnipath at all. They have never agreed for the last two years on China or the border situation either. Most importantly, for two weeks they delayed a discussion on price rise and GST. The Agnipath scheme is linked to unemployment. We wanted to discuss that (but) they took the view that it was sub judice. They were actually feeling the heat. To say that Agnipath is sub judice and cannot be discussed is a joke… That way you can always find an issue which is sub judice.
What are your views on Opposition unity?
The fact that we got the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party to sign the joint statement on the Supreme Court judgment on PMLA was an achievement. But the fact of the matter is that the TMC is a sovereign, independent republic. The AAP too is a sovereign, independent republic. They don’t attend any Opposition meetings. Very often they tell me they are with us in spirit but not in letter. It is up to them. Our doors are open. If they want to take a superior attitude…I can’t help it.
The next session of Parliament will have a new chairman. How does the Opposition look forward to working with (VP-elect) Jagdeep Dhankar who had a controversial stint as Governor of West Bengal?
Obviously there will be a brief honeymoon period. I mean Venkaiah Naidu was Venkaiah Naidu. He had a way of getting along with people. He had relations across the political spectrum. I don’t know how Mr Dhankar…He comes from the BJP. There have been Vice Presidents in the past from the BJP… Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Naidu. If Mr Dhankar combines the objectivity of the Shekhawat with the humour of Naidu, I think…he will be well advised to combine the two. And every Vice President who comes…comes with the ambition of becoming the President…so he has to prove his loyalty too.