The government has said it plans to introduce 34 key bills and take up 37 for passing, hoping the legislative business of parliament will not be disrupted like previous sessions on one flimsy pretext or another.
Though the Lokpal bill is slated for introduction Wednesday, there is little chance of its being passed by the Aug 15 deadline set by GandhianAnna Hazare. This is because it would have to be referrred to a select committee to enable political parties across the spectrum state their views on the measure. On its part, the government has said it hopes this process would be completed in August itself so that the bill is passed before the parliament session ends September 8.
However, Hazare's decision to go on another fast from Aug 16 may impact parliament's functioning.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal has called upon all the parties to ensure a smooth session, butBharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha S.S. Ahluwalia has given enough signals of the storm ahead.
He said the party would seek a discussion on price rise and corruption under clauses which entail voting.
Jailed former communication minister A. Raja's attempt in a trial court to shift the blame in the spectrum allocation case to Prime MinisterManmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram can also lead to a sticky situation.
With both the Congress and the BJP tained by major corruption charges, the exit of Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will give the Congress enough fodder to counter the opposition offensive on corruption.
Political analyst Baalji Sharma feels that the monsoon session will test the strength and unity of the UPA, which is trying to recover from the corruption scandals.
"The focus will be particularly on Manmohan Singh, who arrives in the house with a new, reshuffled team of ministers," Sharma said.
Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has said the BJP will raise the issue of internal security, especially the Mumbai blasts and the Maoist violence.
The introduction of two other key bills - on land acquisition and food security - is still uncertain as the government is in the process of eliciting public response on their drafts.
The passage of the women's reservation bill in the Lok Sabha is also uncertain as a consensus has not been reached on the landmark legislation, which was passed in March 2010 by the Rajya Sabha.
''Too many skeletons in Opposition cupboard'': PMPTI | 06:07 PM,Jul 31,2011
New Delhi, Jul 31 (PTI) Confrontation appears imminent in the Monsoon Session of Parliament beginning tomorrow with a combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telling the opposition bluntly of having "too many skeletons in its cupboard", a remark that raised the hackles of the BJP."We are not afraid of discussing issues of corruption.The opposition also has too many skeletons in its cupboard. We are not afraid of discussing any issue," Singh told reporters after an all party meeting convened by Speaker Meira Kumar on the eve of the Monsoon Session.Singh's remark came in response to a question whether the government was apprehensive of a tough session ahead in view of the Left and the Right making common cause on the issue of corruption and price rise.Virtually accepting Singh's challenge, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj dared the government declaring "let us see who attacks whom from tomorrow".She also accused Singh of starting a confrontation even before the start of the five-week long session."See he has started it. The government is free to bring out all the arrows in its quiver. Let us see who has more arrows in its quiver," she countered.With the BJP and the Left set to mount pressure on the 2G issue, Singh sought to take the sting out of Opposition attack, saying Parliament should not "pre-judge" it as the matter was before court."The matter is before court. It should be left to be decided by the court and Parliament should not pre-judge the issue," he said.The session is expected to be tumultuous with the Opposition raring to have a go at the government on a host of issues ranging from corruption and price rise to Telangana and terrorism. .
Government on guard as Opposition armed with over a dozen issues
Scams, violence, inflation, corruption, black money, land acquisition, Mumbai blasts and Telangana on the top of the agenda
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has convened a meeting of leaders of parties on Sunday at noon to prepare for a six-week Monsoon Session of Parliament from Monday that promises to be stormy with the Opposition armed with over a dozen issues.
She is also expected to take a decision on Sunday on the resignations by 13 MPs of Andhra Pradesh, including nine from the Congress and two each from TDP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, in support of the demand for a separate Telangana state. Resignations of MPs and MLAs have already put the government on spot to decide the contentious issue expeditiously.
Continuing price rise, corruption, black money, land acquisition, 13/7 Mumbai blasts, Telangana, rail accidents, black gold (coal) scam and Maoist violence are among the issues on the top of the Opposition's agenda. The main opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is gunning for dismissal and arrest of Home Minister P Chidambaram, citing what it claims as "revelations" made by arrested former Telecom Minister A Raja on Chidambaram's alleged role in the 2G scam. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy went to the extent of alleging that Chidambaram got a cut of Rs 5,000 crores from Raja in the scam.
The BJP is targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well in the 2G scam while the Congress is geared up to assert that its removal of BS Yeddyurappa as the Karnataka chief minister will not be enough as even the BJP headquarters and national leaders have been beneficiary of the illegal iron ore mining scam.
WOMEN'S RESERVATION: The Speaker convened two meetings of floor leaders last month for a consensus on the Women's Reservation Bill but without success while Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been vowing to get it passed during the Monsoon Session.
The Bill granting 33 per cent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9 last year. Bansal also said the Lokpal Bill, cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday, will be the first official Bill to be introduced on August 3. It will be then referred to the Standing Committee to examine it and get feedback of the public and concerned people before it is brought back for passage, possibly during the winter session in November-December.
FLAGSHIP BILL: The government has readied its yet another flagship Food Security Bill, Communal Violence Bill and the Lokpal Bill to be introduced during the session and push for passage of three other key legislations of Women's Reservation Bill that was practically abandoned after it were passed by the Rajya Sabha last year, the Nuclear Liability Bill and the Direct Tax Code Bill to replace the Income Tax Act and the 115th Constitution Amendment Bill to usher in the new Goods and Service Tax (GST).
The Land Acquisition Bill was also in the government's priority list for introduction during the monsoon session, but Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh got it deferred to give him time to hold a month-long consultation with the state governments and also seek public opinion by mounting the draft on Internet. He sought time on the ground that it is going to be a landmark Bill that will for the first time bring land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement in a singled integrated law.
The UPA-II government had started its innings declaring eight important Bills in its 100-day agenda but only Right to Education (RTE) has won parliamentary approval. In the budget session agenda, the government had announced 34 Bills but only five could be passed besides the financial bills related to the Union Budget and the Railway Budget. A staggering number of 81 official Bills have piled up in Parliament and it is doubtful that 26 sittings planned in the monsoon session will be enough to reduce this backlog of the pending bills. The Government finds itself handicapped in pushing through these bills in earlier sessions because of most business hours lost in protests and adjournments.
THE 25-YEAR-OLD BILL: Among the pending bills is one of 1987 hanging for almost a quarter of century with change of ten governments and election of eight new Lok Sabhas. It seeks changes in the Medical Council of India.
Crucial among the pending Bills is the pension bill whose delay is most disturbing since the pension fund and its regulator are already in place but without statutory backing. For that matter, at least 10 key financial sector reform Bills are pending for Parliament's approval. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed confidence while talking to a select group of reporters here last week that some of these bills "should be able to get through in the forthcoming session" thogh he was quick to add, "I cannot say how many."
Investors are keenly awaiting the fate of several financial sector legislations. The string of scandals in the past one year led to a policy paralysis and stalled legislative business as the government has been caught up fending off allegations of corruption.
The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill brought in 2008 to hike FDI (foreign direct investment) in the insurance companies from 26 to 49 per cent is not yet cleared by the standing committee on finance as it is pressing the government to better withdraw it.
While the standing committee is yet to finalise its views on this Bill, it held its first meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill, 2011 and is understood to have asked the finance ministry some tough questions on its intentions regarding the pension sector. "Neither of the Bills will be ready for discussion in the Monsoon session as the committee is still working on them," a source revealed. However, the panel, is likely to finalise its report on the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which seeks to raise the ceiling on voting rights of shareholders of nationalised banks to 10 per cent. Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily is likely to push for passage of a new Companies Bill he had readied, the Bill promises that running a business in India will not be difficult any more.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
"The matter is before courts. It should be left to be decided by the court and Parliament should not pre-judge the issue," Singh told reporters on the sidelines of an all-party meeting convened by Speaker Meira Kumar.
TheBJP has been gunning for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home ministerP Chidambaram in the wake of former telecom minister A Raja's allegations against them in the 2G case.
Opposition parties like theAIADMK have also demanded an explanation from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister as alsoCongress PresidentSonia Gandhi on Raja's charges in2G spectrum scam of "Himalayan proportions".
On Anna Hazarae' threat to go on a fast from August 16 in protest against a "weak"Lokpal Bill, Singh said the Lokpal Bill's fate will be decided by Parliament.
"As you know, we are ready with the Lokpal Bill. Lokpal Bill's fate will be decided by Parliament. In a democracy, Parliament is a sovereign body, it should be allowed to function and discharge its duty," he said.
On Telangana MPs and MLAs resigning over the statehood demand, Singh hoped that the government would overcome the issue.
Monsoon session of Parliament: What lies ahead
There has been much criticism of politicians and Parliament by some activists. It is for parliamentarians to regain their moral legitimacy by carefully considering the legislative proposals and passing them. The next few weeks are an opportunity to do just that, says M R Madhavan.
The monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to be held from August 1 to September 8. Parliament passed just five bills in the last two sessions.
Currently, 81 bills are pending with the two houses. In addition, some key bills such as the Lokpal Bill and the amendment to the land acquisition law are expected to be introduced this session. In this article, we focus on a few important bills related to corruption, taxation, and higher education.
M R Madhavan heads research at PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi
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Image: The monsoon session is another opportunity for Parliament
Lokpal Bill: Union Cabinet approves draft with PM, judiciary & lower bureaucracy out of ambit
The United Progressive Alliance government was forced to move swiftly after public sentiment rallied behind a campaign started by activist Anna Hazare, who went on a fast-unto-death demanding the implementation of the bill.
The government's announcement of the provisions of the Bill drew immediate rebuke from the leaders of Hazare's movement and the activist himself said he was not satisfied with the draft bill and would resume his fast unto death. This has set the stage for yet another political impasse for the government hobbled by a parade of corruption charges and an opposition that is raring to go on an all-out attack on the issue of corruption.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in favour of bringing his office under the purview of the new institution, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said, adding that the Cabinet decided otherwise due to apprehension that such a proposal could potentially have adverse effects on the stability of a government. The PM, however, will come under the purview of Lokpal after he demits office.
TheLokpal Bill will be introduced in Parliament within the first two days of the Monsoon session beginning on August 1. The judiciary will be covered by the judicial accountability bill, which is also being introduced in this session of Parliament. The government will also introduce a separate whistleblower protection bill.
Lokpal will have the authority to investigate any Union minister or officials of group A or above without any external sanction. The Lokpal will consist of a chairman and eight members, of which half will be judicial members. The Lok Ayuktas in the states does not come under the purview of this bill as the Centre cannot intervene in the powers of the state, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said.
While the Chairperson would be a sitting or retired Chief Justice of India, the members would include former or sitting judges of Supreme Court or Chief Justices of the High Court, Khurshid, who was present with Soni said. Persons with "impeccable integrity", with 25 years of experience in administration who has dealt with corruption and vigilance, would also form part of the Lokpal, he said.