4.22pm: “In our democracy, sometimes there are forms of dissent which disturb us”
With the Monsoon session of Parliament coming to an end after most of its sittings washed out over the coal issue, a concerned Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Friday said some “forms of dissent” were leaving her disturbed.
“Parliament has not functioned and it has made me very sad. In our democracy, sometimes there are forms of dissent which disturb us,” she said soon after the Monsoon session was adjourned sine die.
At the same time, Ms. Kumar said she hoped that a solution to the logjam between the UPA and the NDA would be found soon and Parliament will function smoothly in the Winter session.
“…we are all staunch believers in the functioning democracy of our country and I am very hopeful that a solution will be found, situation will normalise and Parliament will function,” the Speaker said.
The Monsoon session, the second-worst since the 2009 general elections, functioned only six out of 19 days. It was paralysed for remaining period due to the stand-off between the government and the BJP over the controversial coal block allocation issue with the main opposition party remaining unrelenting on its demand for resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Prior to this, the Winter session of 2010 witnessed a complete washout due to the Opposition demand for setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
2.45pm: BJP alleges SC/ST Promotions quota was an attempt to distract
Arun Jaitley has said it was the view of the BJP, that the government attempted to introduce the highly controversial SC/ST Promotions quota bill in an effort to divert attention from the Coalgate scandal and the BJP allegations of corruption. “We decided Centre was attempting to distract with the reservations bill and so we decided to stick with our stand on corruption”, he said.
Alleging that the PM and PMO had guided the process of coal block allocation, Arun Jaitley said that the centre needs to have a inquiry in which the Prime Minister should depose. “All issues will be covered by this”, he said. Jaitley added that the country was faced with a question of how to clean up the entire process of allocation of natural resources, adding that it was the hope of the BJP that their protests would lead to a fairer process in the allocation of natural resources.
Repeating a call for the cancellation of coal blocks Jaitley added, “The issue is that all the allocations were made in an arbitrary manner which should be cancelled. The cancellations can be done because it is already a violation of law. Economic benefit is assured if blocks are auctioned”.
2.25pm: Jaitley says Parl agitation was to shake the conscience of the country
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said that the BJP agitation in Parliament was an attempt to shake the conscience of the country, similar to when a similar agitation three years ago led to a clean up of the telecom sector.
Addressing journalists, Jaitley said that it was now clear that the PM and PMO were guiding the process of coal block allocations. “Coal block allocations were discretionary, arbitrary and to put it simply, done corruptly”, he said.
Saying that the UPA was a regime committed to Kleptocracy, Jaitley alleged that allocations were made to businessmen and politicians linked to the UPA. “Given there were more applicants than resources there should have been auctions. This is a textbook case of crony capitalism”, he said.
2.15pm: Sushma Swaraj says BJP agitation to continue outside Parliament
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj has justified her party’s Parliamentary agitation, and has vowed that its agitation against the centre for its involvement in the Coalgate scandal would continue outside Parliament. “The battle that was inside Parliament will now take place outside. I am glad most political parties back our demands. On September 13 core group of party will meet and decide how to take the issue to the grassroots and villages”, she said.
Addressing a media conference moments after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed the BJP for ‘negating democracy’, Swaraj said that they had made it very clear to both the government and the speaker of the house that they were not willing to debate the CAG report on coal block allocation. She added that they had told the government that they would allow Parliament to function if coal block allocations were cancelled, but that the government had refused. “There are many ways to oppose the government and stalling Parliament was just one of them”, she added.
“The government’s corrupt face has been exposed and this biggest scam by the government has been shown by the BJP”, she added.
2.08pm: Prime Minister says BJP has negated democracy
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has slammed the BJP for not allowing Parliament to function, saying that its MPS abused Parliamentary priviledges to obfuscate the democratic process of the nation.
Speaking to reporters after the end of the monsoon session, which will, in the words of Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, go down in history as one of the most unproductive sessions in the history of India’s democracy, the Prime Minister said that the BJP’s behaviour meant that many important issues were not discussed.
“There are problems of communal tension, regional and ethnic tension, terrorism and naxalism. Parliament should have debated these issues. We should have discussed what our economic policy should be given global economic tension”, said the Prime Minister.
Directly addressing the public, the Prime Minister said, “I would like my countrymen to decide if this is way to work in a functioning democracy. What we have witnessed is a total negation of that. People should rise up and say that come what may, Parliament should be allowed to function”
12.45pm: ‘This session likely to be remembered for work not done’
Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari making his valedictory remarks before adjourning the upper house of Parliament sine die, has said that this years wash out monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be remembered for work not done, rather than anything else.
12.09pm: Lok Sabha adjourned sine die
The Lok Sabha has been adjourned sine die, with less than 30% of expected work carried out in the house. The washed out session has also cost the public a sum of Rs 10 crore in wastage. However leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that the loss of one session was a small sacrifice in its bid to clean up the public sector, particularly in relation to the Coalgate scam.
The Rajya Sabha has also been adjourned, but will meet again at 12.45am
12.02pm: Parliament resumes, Opposition ruckus does not die down
Proceedings have resumed in both houses of Parliament, but adjournment looks as though it will happen very soon, with the opposition keeping up its campaign of shouting slogans and attempting to disrupt the house.
It will be interesting to see if any more bills are passed. The Lok Sabha certainly looks as though it is in the process of passing bills. The Opposition has however, seemed to have found renewed vigour in its slogan shouting.
11.04am: Both houses adjourned till noon
Public time and money notwithstanding, the Opposition uproar has not subsided, leading to the adjournment of both houses of Parliament. The first session ended only minutes after it began, with the other sessions of the day likely to go the same way.
10.50am: NDA begins protest outside Parliament
The NDA are staging a demonstration outside Parliament on the last day of the monsoon session, protesting the alleged role of the centre in the Coalgate scam. Speaking to reporters, Senior BJP leader LK Advani said, “From 2G Scam to the coal scam, this government is just about scams. It is not concerned about the common man”.
10.40 am: The monsoon session of Parliament, which has already seen twelve days of disruption, will finally come to an end today. The fact that today is the last day of the session is however, unlikely to prevent the fact that either house of Parliament will see any work done.
According to the Rajya Sabha Bulletin, the agenda for government Bills this session, included 29 pending Bills for consideration and passing and 15 new Bills that were to be introduced.
But in one of the most unproductive sessions in India’s Parliamentary history, the Parliament has seen only six of the 31 bills listed passed. This means that 80 per cent of the Parliament’s work hours and nearly Rs 10 crore of taxpayer’s money has been lost.
Both houses remain deadlocked over a CAG report detailing discrepancies in coal blocks allocation, that has had the BJP vowing not to allow either house of Parliament to function until their demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister, a judicial probe and the cancellation of all allocations, are fulfilled. The Congress however, has refused to give in to any of their demands.
In a counter-offensive against the BJP, senior Minister Kapil Sibal has made public letters written to the Centre by BJP and other non-Congress Chief Ministers strongly opposing any change in policy to allow the auction of coal mines.
Sibal released letters from the then BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh and Chief Secretaries of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh and CPI-M ruled West Bengal to argue that the states had a say in the allocation of coal mines and the blame was unjustly being put on the Centre.
Attacking the opposition’s “hypocrisy, duplicity and opportunism”, Sibal said that much before the CAG report was tabled in Parliament, the allocation of 26 coal blocks were cancelled.
Targetting BJP’s “extra-Constitutional ideology”, he also referred to BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s statement that there were occasions when obstruction in Parliament brings greater benefit to the country, and there was no point in debating in Parliament and PAC because government had majority.
“This is the anti-thesis of parliamentary democracy which has now been elevated into an ideology by Jaitley,” Sibal said.
The Minister asked how could the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha denigrate parliamentary democracy by saying Parliament be made dysfunctional because government is in majority.
“This is obfuscation of parliamentary processes. This amounts to denigrating parliamentary democracy. The Leader of the Opposition seems to have discovered the virtues of obstructing Parliament in the larger interest. This is hypocritical,”, he said.
Sibal also referred to Jaitley’s speeches in Parliament in 2001 extolling the virtues of debate in Parliament and discussion in PAC on CAG reports on the controversy relating to purchase of coffins and said “BJP relishes double-speak.