Govt follows tradition, it won’t be full Budget; Rafale high on Opp agenda
The Centre is expected to make a host of populist announcements in the Budget Session of Parliament starting on Thursday during which the Opposition is likely to corner it on a range of issues, including the contentious Rafale fighter jet deal and alleged agrarian distress.
Against the backdrop of speculation that the Modi Government would present full Budget, the Finance Ministry clarified the Government will present an interim Budget. Finance Minister Piyush Goyal will present the interim Budget on Friday. Goyal has been given additional charge of the Finance Ministry as Arun Jaitley has gone to the US for treatment. Jaitley as the Finance Minister has presented five Budgets. As per practice, a Vote-on-Account or approval for essential Government spending for a limited period is taken in an election year and a full-fledged Budget presented by the new Government.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday said all parties have assured their cooperation in smooth functioning of the House and urged the members to raise issues of national importance. Mahajan chaired an all-party meeting, which was attended by leaders of various parties.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Mahajan said, “All parties have assured their cooperation in smooth functioning of the House. Members from various parties have suggested that there should be debate on farmers’ issues.”
Talking about the Budget Session being the last sitting of the 16th Lok Sabha, Mahajan suggested that members should make it a fruitful Session by raising issues of national importance. In total, there will be 10 sittings of the House in this Session, Mahajan said, adding she will try to ensure that maximum business is transacted.
When asked about the Budget, the Speaker said it is up to the Government if it wants to bring an interim Budget or Vote-on-Account.
The all-party meeting was attended by Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and both Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel and Arjun Ram Meghwal. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, RJD’s Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, SP’s Dharmendra Yadav and BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab were among those present.
The Session, which will end on February 13 and will be last one of the present Government, will begin with an address by President Ram Nath Kovind to a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The Government will make efforts to pass contentious Bills on citizenship and triple talaq, even as Opposition to these proposed legislations has denied them the parliamentary approval so far. Some BJP allies like the JD(U) have also expressed their reservations to these Bills.
The Government is keen on the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to grant persecuted minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians, from a few neighbouring countries Indian citizenship. The triple talaq Bill proposes jail term for Muslim men for practising instant divorce.
The Representation of the People Act (Amendment) Bill 2017, which will allow NRIs to cast their vote in Indian polls through proxies, and the National Medical Council are also on the Government’s agenda. These key Bills are struck in the Rajya Sabha, where the Government lacks numbers.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill is stuck in the Rajya Sabha amid the Opposition demanding that the Government drop Bangladesh from the list of nations from where the refugees would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha during the Winter session. The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha has demanded that the Bill be sent to a select committee.
The Government’s plea in the Supreme Court to return superfluous land around the disputed site in Ayodhya, where the BJP wants the Ram Temple built, is also expected to generate heat in Parliament.
The Opposition is also set to vehemently oppose any populist announcement by the Government on the ground that it has no “right” to do so as its term is ending in a few months.
Thursday, 31 January 2019 | PNS | New Delhi
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