Almost all the sessions of both the houses of the Parliament held in 2016 have proved washouts owing to frequent disruptions and logjams on one pretext or the other. With the exception of the passage of the GST Bill by the Lok Sabha, no other important legislation could be transacted within the year. Frequent logjams in Parliament have become such a routine that it may seem that its biggest function is just to adjourn itself. The year 2016 witnessed both the ruling dispensation and the Opposition sticking to their guns to such an extent that adjournment has seemingly become the default mode of Parliament.
Winter Session Washout
The Winter Session of Parliament commenced on 16 November and ended on 16 December without transacting any fruitful business amidst frequent adjournments and logjams, especially on the issue of demonetisation. In the aftermath of Prime Minister Modiâs sudden announcement to ban the use of currency notes of 500 and 1000 denomination on the night of 8 November triggered the debate when the Winter Session commenced on 16 November. The Modi government expressed its willingness for a debate on demonetisation, so saidthe Opposition but with certain conditions. This led to a logjam that culminated in washout of the entire Winter Session.
Many key legislative bills faced a logjam in Parliament at the expense of every minute of running a session costing over than 2.5 lakh to the public exchequer. Both the Houses scored zero on the productivity scale and failed to conduct any meaningful business. Exasperated at the repeated disruption of parliamentary proceedings over demonetisation, BJP elder L.K. Advani has recently blamed both the ruling and opposition benches for the deadlock, and even pulled up the Speaker and parliamentary affairs minister for not running the House by saying:
âI am going to tell the Speaker that she
is not running the House . I am going
to say it publicly. Both sides are a party to this.â
The ongoing parliamentary logjam also earned the displeasure of President Pranab Mukherjee, who termed disruption ofParliament as totally unacceptable. Lamenting that disruption of parliamentary work had become a practice, President Mukherjee called upon the MPs to do their jobs and asked all concerned to debate and discuss issues of public importance in the house.
Many key legislative bills faced a logjam in Parliament at the expense of every minute of running a session costing over than 2.5 lakh to the public exchequer
According to one report, during this Winter Session the productivity of Lok Sabha was 14 percent and that of Rajya Sabha was 20 percent. It also showed that Rajya Sabha spent zero hour on questions, whereas the Lok Sabha spent 5.1 hours. Rajya Sabha spent 11.8 hours on non-legislative issues while the Lok Sabha spent 4.3 hours on the same.
It is reported that the future of the GST Bill especially hangs in uncertainty. Undoubtedly, the GST Council met for the sixth time on 18 December and continued to discuss the central and state GST Bills on 22 December; nevertheless, the GST rollout from 1 April next year looks impossible now.
It is noteworthy that the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) was the least productive Lok Sabha ever as 40 percent of its total time was lost to disruptions. That time, the BJP was in opposition and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power. Now, the situation has reversed, but the trend continues.After 2014, the opposition, particularly the Congress, has stalled the 16th Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on several issues including the roles of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in helping fugitive businessman Lalit Modi, the alleged involvement of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan in recruitments-scam (popular known as the Vyapam scam), the controversial statements emanating from the ruling party members on communal and caste violence, the âvindictive policyâ of the Modi government against Sonia and Rahul Gandhiin the âNational Herald caseâ, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and now the issue of demonetisation.
According to an expert, when in 2013, the BJP was the Opposition it wasnât any different: The party had disrupted Parliament the most in the last five decades. In the 2013 Winter Session of Parliament that ran from 5 to 18 December, both the Houses of Parliament adjourned sine die on 18 December, and that several hours were lost thanks to the disruption on issues relating to Telanganaâs separate statehood.
Lok Sabha worked for six percent of the scheduled hours and Rajya Sabha for 19 percent; six legislative bills were introduced and one legislative and two appropriation bills were passed by both Houses, and two bills were withdrawn during the session, it noted.
In 2013 more than half the Parliamentâs time was wasted â Parliament met for 63 days and was productive for only 44 percent of the time. The Winter Session was also the shortest, that of 10 days and since it wasnât prorogued, the second part was held from 5 to 21 February, 2014. This again witnessed several disruptions with a pending non-confidence motion not taken up. Lok Sabha worked for a total of 21 percent and Rajya Sabha, 27 percent. 15 bills were introduced and 12 of them were passed (of those 5 related to General and Railways budgets).