Govt embarrassed in LS, oppn forces deferment of Budget debate

Govt embarrassed in LS, oppn forces deferment of Budget debateNEW DELHI: Government today suffered yet another embarrassment in Parliament with a united opposition forcing deferment of discussion on Budget in Lok Sabha till Monday over the absence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The House was to take up the discussion at noon according to listed business. However, as soon as Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha started speaking, Congress members stormed into the Well, saying the debate should not be taken up today as Jaitley was not present in the House.

Congress members, led by their leader Mallikarjun Kharge, insisted that the debate on such an important subject could not be initiated in the absence of the Finance Minister.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi was seen asking party MPs to oppose the government’s contention that the debate should be allowed to start.

Amid the uproar, the House was adjourned for 15 minutes.

When it re-assembled, arguments and counter-arguments took place for more than an hour.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said Jaitley has gone to London for the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the UK government’s invite and if Congress members do not want to speak on Budget till he returns, members of other parties could speak today.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan endorsed his proposal while ruling that presence of Finance Minister was not so critical as Minister of State for Finance was as good.

However, other opposition parties like Trinamool Congress and BJD joined ranks with Congress and refused to speak.

At this, Naidu said if the members do not want to speak, the Speaker could adjourn the House till 2.30 and take up other business.

The Speaker did accordingly, as a result of which the debate was deferred till Monday.

Only a few days back, the government had suffered an embarrassment in Rajya Sabha when an opposition amendment over the issue of black money and corruption to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address was passed. The NDA lacks numbers in the Upper House. .
The Speaker’s repeated observations as also Naidu’s requests to allow the debate to start went in vain as Congress insisted that it can begin only in the presence of Jaitley as is the parliamentary practice.

“Any minister is Finance Minister,” the Speaker said, while appealing to the opposition and contending that she was quoting rules.

Mahajan said Jaitley had written to her seeking permission and authorizing his deputy Jayant Sinha to look after the debate in his absence.

But it did not cut ice with the main opposition party.

“No, No… This is an issue,” Gandhi was heard saying as Naidu asked Congress to not make an issue of a “non-issue”.

Kharge’s refrain was that the opposition had all the respect for the Speaker and was not contesting her ruling but it was a matter of Parliamentary tradition.

Naidu suggestion that if Congress wanted to speak only before the Fiancé Minister, its members can speak on Monday while others should be allowed to participate today. Speaker also agreed with the proposal.

It was, however, immediately shot down by Trinamool Congress with its member Kalyan Banerjee arguing that Congress as the main opposition party should start the debate.

BJD member Tathagat Satpathy said his party would favor a debate only if it was not considered a “precedent”.

As Kharge stood his ground on postponing the debate till Jaitley’s scheduled return on Monday, Naidu suggested that the House could be adjourned, saying “we do not want to embarrass the Speaker” who had given a ruling which was not adhered to by the opposition.

Mahajan then adjourned the House till 2.30 PM. Kharge said at no point of time the government or the Speaker’s office informed the Congress about the absence of Jaitley.

Seeking deferment did not mean that his party was not ready, he said.

E Ahamed of IUML said it would be a “loss of prestige” for the House if the debate is held in Jaitley’s absence as the Budget is the most important work carried out by Parliament, more so the Lok Sabha.

P Karunakarn of CPI (M) said the presence of the Finance Minister was needed as he could only see first hand the issues raised by the members.

In his opening remarks, Sinha said the Budget 2015-16 had something for all sections of society and the exercise has brought in revolutionary change in the fiscal architecture of the country.

Amid the din created by slogan-shouting Congress members in the Well, he said the new government inherited an economy in which there was a huge fiscal deficit.

While the expenditure of the government was to the tune of Rs 17 lakh crore, its revenue was Rs 11.9 lakh crore only, causing huge borrowing.

Drawing a cricket analogy, he said as Indian team was performing well in the World, Team India should also take part in the world cup (of economy) and win it.

He said the new government had taken several steps to strengthen the banking sector and promote employment.

The country had 14,000 stalled project when the Modi government took over and many of them have been put back on rails, he said.–PTI

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