Price rise debate sacrificed to rules
New Delhi, February 23
With no meeting ground available, the presiding officers of both houses had to adjourn the proceedings on the first working day of the Budget session. Tomorrow would be no better, with the BJP-led opposition vowing disruptions, except during Railway Budget presentation.
Today, while the Opposition wanted Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to allow price rise discussions under rules that permitted voting and censuring of the government, the latter opposed the same, forcing the first adjournment after the question hour, when the NDA, Samajwadi Party, BSP and the RJD stormed the well in both houses.
In the Lok Sabha, where price rise was listed among zero hour matters (12-hour debate on the presidential address was the main business), Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj sought discussions under the adjournment motion (Rule 58) which allows voting.
“On eight occasions, we have discussed prices under Rule 193 (short duration discussion), with no yields. Since other rules haven’t helped, we want discussions under the adjournment motion,” she said, seeking a parliamentary referendum on prices; SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav followed suit.
In the RS, Opposition leader Arun Jaitley wanted discussions under the vote-permitting rule 167, which, too, was disallowed.
Determined to avoid voting, the government pointed to technical faults in opposition notices, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal arguing that adjournment motion provisions couldn’t be attracted in price rise case. “Only matters of recent occurrence and those involving the responsibility of the Union government can be raised,” Bansal said in the House, adding that BJP notices referred to prices as rising for six years.
“Six years isn’t recent. Moreover, the issue involves state governments and can’t be blamed on centre alone. We can discuss prices for nine hours whereas adjournment motion discussions are restricted to two and a half hour, but rules must be followed,” he told TNS.
In another defence of the government stand, the minister said that in NDA regime, 52 adjournment notices were given, but only five admitted; none in the budget session. Those admitted pertained to farmers’ crisis due to rising production cost; mismanagement by UTI of US 64; failure of government in curbing Godhra violence; and drought. The UPA was also quick to mention today how in April, 2000 (budget session), Sonia Gandhi’s adjournment motion on price rise was disallowed.
Enquiries further reveal that during UPA-I, seven adjournment motions were admitted, some even pertaining to state issues like entry of illegal immigrants (concerning northeastern states). The opposition naturally had a point today, with CPI’s Basudeb Acharia saying food grain prices had risen by 20 per cent in four weeks, which is recent.
“Forward trading, government’s move to reduce fertiliser subsidy, allow stock reserves up to 10 per cent and consider petrol, diesel price hike are recent matters impacting prices,” he said. The opposition today repeated its notices of adjournment of proceedings to discuss price rise tomorrow -- something the UPA said it would again oppose, though it vehemently denied jitters on the voting count.
The reality, however, is that the government is wary of voting, given allies the DMK and the TMC’s not-so-condescending moods these days. The DMK has disfavoured reduction in fertiliser subsidy and the TMC has its own problems on Maoist front.