M A I N   N E W S

PM recommends Lok Sabha dissolution on Feb 6
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
In a decision without parallel in Independent India, the BJP-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government has recommended to the President that the Lok Sabha be dissolved on February 6 even before the Vote-on-Account has been adopted by Parliament.

The Cabinet, at its meeting here this evening, adopted a one-sentence resolution that the dissolution of the House of the People be recommended to President APJ Abdul Kalam.

Impartial observers here feel that it is historic for a government in power to recommend the dissolution of the Lok Sabha even before the Vote-on-Account has been adopted by the two Houses of Parliament. A significant section of the intelligentsia believes there can still be many a slip between the cup and the lip.

The Union Cabinet, which met here this evening, decided to forward to the President its recommendation that the 13th Lok Sabha should be dissolved on the 6th of February after Parliament adopts the interim Budget, which equips the lame-duck government to continue its affairs from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Mr Vajpayee drove to Rashtrapati Bhavan after the Union Cabinet met and decided that the Lok Sabha be dissolved to pave the way for an early parliamentary election in late March or April.

The meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, besides adopting the one-line resolution that the Lok Sabha be dissolved, also finalised the agenda for the Parliament session beginning on January 29.

According to the agenda decided upon for the Parliament session beginning January 29, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh will present the interim Budget on February 3 in the Lok Sabha.

Railway Minister Nitish Kumar will present a Vote-on-Account for his ministry on January 30. Both Houses are likely to adjourn on February 5.

While the Lok Sabha has been reconvened for January 29, the Rajya Sabha will meet the next day. The two Houses will pass the interim Railway and General Budgets before adjourning on February 5.

Impartial observers believe that the government has virtually taken the entire Opposition for granted about a smooth passage of the Vote-on-Account and not raising any other issues which could lead to an extension of the two Houses of Parliament. There is consternation in the Opposition camp that the BJP-led NDA is taking it for granted.

The Vote-on-Account will enable the government to meet the expenditure for four months from April. Incidentally, there will be no Presidential Address to Parliament.

The brief session would be construed as part of the Winter Session, which has not been prorogued. Usually, the President addresses both Houses on the first day of the first session of a year.

Immediately after the Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, NDA convenor and Union Defence Minister George Fernandes and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the President and recommended the Union Cabinetís decision that the Lok Sabha be dissolved on February 6.

Addressing a press conference late at night, Ms Swaraj said that there was only a one-line resolution adopted by the Cabinet, which was conveyed to the President. This has been done in keeping with the mandate handed to Mr Vajpayee after the meeting of the BJP-led NDA and the national executive of the BJP, which met in Hyderabad asking the Prime Minister to decide on holding a snap general election.

Ms Swaraj explained that a Vote-on-Account had become imperative because despite the governmentís best efforts, a new regime cannot be installed at the Centre before March 31, which is the end of the current financial year.

She said under the circumstances, the government had no option but to recommend the dissolution of the Lok Sabha as early as possible so that the Election Commission had the time to prepare for holding the general elections at an early date.

Mr Vajpayee, after considering all aspects and the mandate handed to him by the NDA as well as the recommendation of the BJP that the general election be advanced, decided that the President should be duly informed of the Union Cabinetís decision as early as possible.

The Election Commission, an autonomous body and a creation of the Constitution, is vested with the powers of the conduct and superintendence of elections in the country. Government sources believe that the elections at best can be held in phases sometime in April.

A new government, after the general election, cannot be in place by the end of the Fiscal 2003-2004, therefore the expectation is that the elections would be held in phases sometime in April which ensures that school examinations are over and the requisite infrastructure and paramilitary forces are available to the Election Commission to go through with the gigantic democratic process.

The Election Commission on its part and Chief Election Commissioner-designate T.S. Krishnamurthy has said that it would be the Election Commissionís endeavour to hold the elections as early as possible after updating the electoral rolls all over the country. 

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