Saturday, April 21, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rail Budget passed without debate
Cong unrelenting on JPC demand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 20
The Lok Sabha today created history by passing the Railway Budget for 2001-2002 without any discussion amidst loud “ayes” from the ruling side and slogan-shouting by members of the opposition Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, who said he was constrained to put the demands for grants for the Railways for 2001-2002 to voice vote without discussion as it was not possible to have discussion in the present circumstances, took only 15 minutes to complete the formality of getting the Railway Budget and the Appropriation Bill passed.

The House, which reassembled at 3 p.m. after the Congress and the RJD forced the adjournment of the Lok Sabha soon after Question Hour, was adjourned till Monday.

In the absence of the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, in the House, her deputy, Mr Madhav Rao Scindia, held forte and argued before the Speaker to convince the government to agree for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Tehelka expose.

He said his party was interested in a discussion on the Railway Budget but wanted the government to respond to its demand for the JPC. He said the constitution of the JPC was not a matter of strength in the House and the government should adopt a give-and-take policy.

“We are appealing in all humility. We would like to have a complete discussion on the Railways. We believe in the democratic process. It has to be in the spirit of give and take,” Mr Scindia said amidst jeers from the Treasury Benches.

He appealed to the government to be “statesman-like” and agree for the JPC.

The Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, said he appreciated the concern of the Opposition that a discussion should take place. However, he pointed out that the give and take did not mean that “you give the JPC or we will not take.”

He said the Congress attitude that it would not allow Parliament to run unless the government agreed to its demand was not in the spirit of give and take but was “take and take”.

He said Parliament had a constitutional obligation to clear the Railway Budget and the Finance Bill and appealed to the Opposition to allow this important business to be taken up in the next four days. He said the could be had all night beginning today.

Mr Mahajan said the issue of the JPC and other demands could be discussed once the important business was passed.

Having heard both sides, the Speaker made his observation on getting the Railway Budget passed by voice vote.

Congress members raised slogans like “we want JPC” and “lipa pothi band karo (stop whitewash operations)” drowning the Railway Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar’s introduction of the Bills concerned.

Mr Nitish Kumar’s move to introduce a Bill to authorise payment and appropriation of certain sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India for the services of the financial year 2001-2002 and to authorise payment and appropriation of certain sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India for the year 2001-2002 for the purposes of the Railways was passed by voice vote amidst slogan-shouting by the Congress members. The Speaker then adjourned the House.

Left parties and the Samajwadi Party remained silent amidst all pandemonium. The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, was among those present in the House.

Earlier, the stand-off over the Tehelka episode paralysed proceedings in the Rajya Sabha. The Opposition, supported by the ruling NDA constituent, the Shiv Sena, charged the government with avoiding a discussion on the Tehelka issue.

Immediately after the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr O. Rajagopal, read out next week’s business, the Opposition took exception to it saying that the government had not allocated time for discussion on the Tehelka expose.

Opposition members wanted to know the fate of their notice on the Tehelka expose which had been admitted by Chairman Krishan Kant under Rule 170 entailing voting.

Amid uproar, Mr Krishan Kant adjourned the House till 2.30 p.m. When the House reassembled, there was no quorum with hardly any members in the House.

The Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha, Mr R. C. Tripathi, said the Vice-Chairman, Mr Suresh Pachouri, had decided to adjourn the House till Monday in view of lack of quorum.



BJP, Congress blame each other
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 20
The passage of the Railway Budget in Parliament today exposed the Opposition’s inability to force a discussion on the important issue.

The BJP blamed the Congress for the “unprecedented” manner in which the Railway (Appropriation) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. The ruling NDA regime seemed to capitalise on the disunity of a weak-kneed Opposition to get the Railway Budget passed.

A distraught Congress said it was an attempt by the BJP-led government to bulldoze democracy by using its majority.

A Congress spokesperson, Mr Jaipal Reddy, said, “We are disturbed like any conscientious democrat over the manner in which the Railway Budget was passed. We are profoundly pained by the turn of events”, he said.

On the party’s strategy for the Union Budget which will come up for discussion on April 25, Mr Reddy said the PAC of the party would take a decision on the issue.


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