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The Monsoon logjam begins

The Monsoon logjam begins

On Wednesday, the 18-day long Monsoon session of Parliament kicked off amid rising uncertainties over its productivity. In the face of an unending logjam between the ruling party and the opposition, the Budget session of Parliament, which began on January 9 and ended on April 6, was unable to accomplish significant business. The Budget session was the least productive session of the Parliament since 2000, with the productivity of the Lok Sabha remaining as low as 21 per cent and the Rajya Sabha at 31 per cent. Just 1 per cent of the time in Lok Sabha and 6 per cent in the Rajya Sabha were spent on legislative business. Public sector bank frauds and the setting up of the Cauvery Board were key issues for the stand-off. In view of how the Budget session turned out to be one of the most unproductive Parliament sessions, there is a growing concern that the ensuing Monsoon session may also end up with limited deliberation upon legislative business. The confrontation between the ruling party and the opposition seems all set to reach a crescendo with Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), YSR Congress Party and CPI (M) planning to move separate no-confidence motions against the government. Congress and TDP were among the opposition parties that moved the no-confidence motion on Wednesday, the first day of the Monsoon session. With the government announcing that it is ready for a debate on any issue, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has accepted the no-confidence motion and indicated that it will be taken up on Friday. "The House will take up the debate (on the motion) on Friday, July 20. The discussion will be held for the full day, followed by voting on it," Mahajan announced when the lower house of the Parliament reassembled after the lunch break on Monday. "We hope the Parliament functions smoothly, whatever issues any party has, it can raise on the floor of the house. Government is ready for discussion on all issues," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking to the media ahead of the session. "Many important decisions in the Nation's interest will be taken up in the Monsoon session. We hope for good suggestions and discussions from all experienced members," he added. Also, after the term of Rajya Sabha Chairman PJ Kurien ended on July 1, both the ruling party and the opposition are eying to fill the post with their own candidate. Earlier, the government had hinted that Shiromani Akali Dal's Naresh Gujral could be fielded as a consensus candidate for the post of the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha. However, the government is yet to reach out to the opposition with any such proposal. The matter becomes contentious with Trinamool Congress also looking to field its own candidate for the post that has been held by Congress nominees for the last four decades. According to sources, 25 bills have been listed for consideration and passage during the session. Three bills are listed for withdrawal. Altogether, 18 new bills are expected to be introduced including the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018. Fugitive Economic Offenders bill, 2018, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill, 2017, and Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill, 2016 are the other important bills listed for consideration and passage. While the list of bills that need to be discussed and passed in this session is exhaustive, there appear few chances of them being discussed and passed by the Parliament in view of the range of issues that the opposition plans to raise during the session. The opposition, it appears, will primarily focus on the increase in mob lynching and communal violence, crime against women, unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, bank frauds, agrarian crisis and higher fuel and commodity prices. In a joint letter to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha have pointed out how in the Budget session crucial bills have been passed without any meaningful discussions. These bills were deprived of due scrutiny as they were not sent to the standing committees and, in many cases, were converted to single house bills by certifying them as money bills. The letter was in response to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's letter to Lok Sabha MPs last week in which she appealed to them to ensure smooth functioning of the Lok Sabha. On the government's part, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written a letter to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, seeking to strike a new deal for women. Prasad's letter was in response to Gandhi's letter to the Prime Minister on Monday, in which he asked the PM to support the passage of the bill that envisages a third of all seats in Parliament and state Assemblies for women.

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