Amid impasse, Budget may be passed without debate


NEW DELHI: The prospect of the ‘finance bill’ being passed amid din looms large with the government putting it on the agenda of Lok Sabha on Tuesday even as the opposition continued to blockade proceedings in both the Houses over the PNB scam.

Sensing that the government was looking to push the budget through without discussions on ‘demand for grants’ as is done conventionally, a joint opposition lodged a strong protest with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and sought that the Centre be restrained.

In the recent past, the budget was passed without any discussion in 2013-14 and 2003-04 when all demands were guillotined.

According to the list of business for Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the ‘demand for grants’ for the 2018-19 budget, called ‘guillotining’, were to be taken up for vote.

As soon as the opposition noticed the listing, they cried foul that the business advisory committee had not cleared the ‘finance bill’ for proceedings, as is required by parliamentary convention.

An angry bloc of Congress, Trinamool, DMK, RJD, SP, Left, NCP among others submitted a memorandum to the Speaker, objecting to what it called was government’s “arrogance and unilateral move to bulldoze all financial business without discussing them in the House”.

Congress leader K C Venugopal said, “The government is being arrogant. You cannot pass the finance bill in the din.” BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said, “It will be disastrous. The finance bill should be discussed.”

The clash exacerbated the standoff between the government and the opposition, resulting in the budget session failing to transact any business in the first week. The possibility of a return to normalcy looks grim for the remaining session.

With the lower House, as also Rajya Sabha, jammed since the start of the session and the opposition in no mood to relent, the mention of ‘finance bill’ on the agenda appeared to be a message from the BJP regime that its priority lay in passage of the budget, with or without discussion. The party has issued a whip to its MPs to be present in the House so that the budget can be passed.

It is necessary for the Centre to secure early passage of the ‘finance bill’ in view of the requirement of the 14-day window for Rajya Sabha to scrutinise the budget before sending it back to Lok Sabha to complete the process and secure presidential assent before April 1.

Amid the battle of wits over the budget, the fate of the discussion on the PNB scam of Nirav Modi hangs in the balance because of a dispute over the ambit of the debate.

While the opposition had earlier agreed to a simple discussion under Rule 193, it was riled by the government’s phrasing of the subject which widened the ambit of debate to scams “over the years”. CPM MP Mohd Salim alleged it was done to dilute the focus from scams under the Modi government.

In retaliation, the opposition hardened its stance to demand an ‘adjournment motion’ — discussion with voting.

BJP is insisting on widening the scope of discussion beyond Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi because it is wary of the opposition’s effort to pin the PNB fraud on the Modi government even when the swindle , they say, started under UPA. The ruling party has also argued that by blaming the government, Congress is seeking to divert attention away from “hollowing” of the banking sector because of “crony capitalism” which was rampant under the Congress-led coalition.

The Congress has accused the government of instigating its allies AIADMK and TRS to disrupt the House and avoid the opposition’s demand.

Source: Economic Times