Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Parliament impasse ends, Lok Sabha to discuss, without voting, price rise

The parliament will discuss price rise under rule 342.BJP opposed a debate not followed by voting. “If the government is still unrelenting, we’ll rather forego any discussion on price rise,” they added. Both sides claimed victory.

This article was published in The Economic Times on 3rd August 2010.

The weeklong impasse in Parliament over the nature of discussion on price rise ended on Monday, with both the government and the Opposition yielding some ground and agreeing to hold the debate under a rule that will be followed by the passage of a resolution conveying the sense of the House.

The Lok Sabha, thus, will hold the discussion under Rule 342, a clause rarely used by the House, on Tuesday. After the conclusion of the debate, Speaker Meira Kumar will move a resolution “expressing concern over inflationary pressure in the economy, and calling upon the government to take further action to contain its adverse impact on the common man”. The Rajya Sabha will witness a similar debate on Wednesday.

It was clear that the two sides, in their anxiety to end the stalemate in Parliament and get down to discussing serious, burning issues confronting the nation, had to climb down from the intransigent positions they had adopted so far. A breakthrough was clinched this morning at the breakfast meeting convened in his parliamentary office by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee.

BJP, which had been insisting on a discussion under Rule 184 that entailed voting, made it plain that they would not be amenable to the idea of a simple debate that would not be followed by voting. “After all, as many as nine discussions had been held in the Lok Sabha on price rise in the last six years. What has been their outcome? The issue, on the contrary, has become more serious,” Leaders of the Opposition in the two Houses, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr Arun Jaitley said. Their contention was backed by the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party. “If the government is still unrelenting, we’ll rather forego any discussion on price rise,” they added.

A way-out was found, with the two sides agreeing to hold the discussion, to be followed by the Chair reading out a resolution conveying the sense of the House. The government’s draft, which said that “this House expresses its concern on the inflationary pressure in the economy and calls upon the government to contain its adverse impact”, was found to be too soft

The Opposition parties, which included BJP, Left and JD(U), suggested three changes in the draft resolution — replacing inflationary pressures with price rise, adding “further action” and aam aadmi (common man) to the concluding part so that it’d have read “....calls upon the government to take further action to contain its adverse impact on the common man”.

Government managers rejected the first suggestion, contending that no finance minister could agree to the idea of replacing inflationary pressures with a specific mention of price rise, but agreed to the latter two changes. As the deadlock ended, both sides claimed victory. While the ruling coalition managers, having thwarted the Opposition’s attempts to force a voting on price rise, heaved a sigh of relief, BJP, which had formulated its response in consultation with the other Opposition parties, expressed satisfaction over the fact that even Congress would be joining in the Opposition’s efforts to ask the government to take more steps to reverse the trend and provide relief to the common man, in whose name it had come to power at the Centre.

1 comment:

  1. The debate over price rise in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, 3 Aug 2010, did not really leave an impact. Given that one week of Parliament's work was disrupted last week precisely on this issue, the MPs who participated in the debate mostly failed to rise to the occasion.
    The one point that I found interesting watching this debate live on TV was that many MPs across party lines recognised that there is a problem in the way the petroleum prices are set. That prices in India are generally quite high for petrol, as compared to the international price of crude oil. And that this was largely due to various taxes imposed on the oil by national and state governments.
    Also, I found it interesting that at lest one MP mentioned that two of the most "subsidised" petroleum items, kerosene and LPG, are being smuggled across our borders.
    The discussion on food price inflation, covered almost everything from the need to population control to stop wastage of food grains, and strengthen the PDS to stop futures trading in commodities. There was not a single new point, or perceptive thought from any one of the MPs whom I heard live on TV.
    I will be waiting to see how the Finance Minister, who is also the leader of the house, replies to close this debate in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 4 Aug 2010, at 11 am.