New Delhi, November 30
That, however, wouldn’t bring the government into trouble, constitutionally as it has only two critical pieces of financial legislation to pass this session without which it would not be able to withdraw from the Consolidated Fund of India the additional money it needs to spend in this financial year. Called Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) and Railways, these legislations can be passed by a simple voice vote even in the din in the House.
Lok Sabha sources told The Tribune that the government was fortunate to not have before it a situation that could become constitutionally challenging as in March 1991 when the Chandrashekhar Government fell with the Congress withdrawing support even before the budget had been passed.
“A lame-duck session was called to pass the budget even though the government had no majority. This was done to save the country from a constitutional crisis. There’s no such situation now,” sources said.
Also there’s no Bill replacing Ordinance in the winter session. So the government can breathe easy. It has been listing the financial legislations for passage since Monday last and is likely to pass the excess demand for grants (general) tomorrow and the railways thereafter.
For its part, the government, which was banking on division in the Opposition ranks over JPC, was in for surprises today when, at the meeting of political parties called by LS Speaker Meira Kumar, a united Opposition made another vociferous appeal for a JPC. Even BJD which was not interested earlier came on board today, challenging the government strategy.
Needless to say, the demand was rejected with Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee terming it unacceptable. This despite some non-Congress, non-BJP members (four Left Parties, the AIADMK, the AGP and the TDP), the RLD and the BJD meeting President Pratibha Patil to urge her to advise the government for a JPC.
The group, led by CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, contended that the President has a constitutional role to advise the government. It cited the Babri Masjid demolition which was condemned by the-then President Shankar Dayal Sharma who even asked the incumbent government to take action.
The pressure didn’t work as was evident after the Speaker’s nearly two-hour meeting. Summing up the failure of talks, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the government offered a Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe into the scam which the Opposition turned down.
“The court hears arguments by lawyers whereas the JPC would have a wide mandate to summon who it wants. We want a JPC,” Sushma said after the Opposition rejected Speaker’s request to let the Question Hour run. We will sit late to compensate for lost time if our demand is allowed, the Opposition said.
But the government was not impressed as succumbing now would mean political loss of face. Bansal blamed it all on Opposition’s trust deficit. Officially, the government’s objection to JPC is this: “It is a political tool not a corruption stemming mechanism for the Opposition.” Bansal today claimed this JPC, even if allowed, would not lead to any outcome given political divisions within. “We are ready for a debate in the Parliament where we can reply when needed,” he added.
The Opposition, meanwhile, sought the scope of the suggested JPC to be enhanced to include reasons why the four pillars of democracy were under attack.