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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 37, September 4, 2010

On Parliament’s Monsoon Session

Editorial

Wednesday 8 September 2010, by SC

The monsoon session of Parliament has come to an end. But before the curtains came down on the session on August 31, the government was forced to retreat on several Bills.

In fact the Rajya Sabha on August 31 was witness to a rare spectacle: one of the elders from the Congress benches, a former Minister for Education in Andhra, K. Keshava Rao, expressing his strong dissent with the manner in which the Education Tribunal Bill was being rushed through by the Union HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal. Rao was not opposing the Bill per se, but objecting to the rejection of the parliamentary Standing Committee report on the proposed legislation by the Minister. It was he who triggered the Opposition members’ opposition to the legislation in the Rajya Sabha even though their colleagues in the Lok Sabha had supported the Bill in the Lower House last week. The Bill was eventually deferred.

The last day of the session also saw a visibily embarassed Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar telling the Lok Sabha that the government “respects the decisions of the courts” and “whatever needs to be done will be done”. He was responding to the members’ persistent demand for a reply from the Minister regarding the Supreme Court view that foodgrains be distributed to the poor free. The SC, on its part, clarified on August 31 that its August 12 directive to the government to distribute grain at “no cost” or “very low cost” to the poor instead of allowing it to rot (something which has exercised the whole country) was not a suggestion but an order. (Earlier Pawar had said it was not possible to implement the SC suggestion as the government was already providing subsidy.) The SC Bench also maintained that statements like the one of Pawar that sugar prices might rise in the near future “would encourage hoarding of sugar”.

The SC order has been aptly interpreted in sections of the media as a severe indictment of the UPA Government in general and the Food ad Agriculture Minister in particular, and has been welcomed by the public at large as it is in defence of the poor.

The PM, of course, was focused on the passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill in parliament before the forthcoming visit to India of US President Barack Obama, and it was achieved after much painstaking spadework and legwork by the government functionaries to bring the BJP on board. Interestingly, highlighting the BJP’s inability to corner the Congress on either price rise or the Bhopal gas tragedy, Deputy Leader of the RJD in the Lok Sabha Raghuvansh Prasad Singh made a highly perceptive observation on the overall national parliamentary scene in the light of the increasing BJP-Congress bonhomie:

In the circumstances, it seems fairly clear that the two so-called national parties have turned Indian politics into a cricket game in which only the Congress has left the others with no option but to field. The great pity for the owling side is that the pitch is a batting paradise! [The Asian Age, September 2]

No amount of ‘explanations’ from the BJP side can refute the essence of this observation.

September 2 S.C.

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