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United opposition leaves imprint on parliament's winter session

United opposition leaves imprint on parliaments winter session

New Delhi: The performance of the two houses stood in stark contrast as the month-long winter session of parliament concluded Tuesday with the Lok Sabha having passed a "record" 18 bills while the Rajya Sabha lost a majority of its working days to disruption.

The fate of crucial bills like the insurance bill and the coal mines allocation bill hangs in balance with the Rajya Sabha failing to transact any substantial business.

Sources said the government was mulling the ordinance route.

Both houses witnessed an united opposition with the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, the Left, Janata Dal-United, Bahujan Samaj Party and others speaking in one voice on several issues.

The house that bore the brunt of protests was the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling National Democratic Alliance is in a minority. It was productive for just 67.18 percent of its time, compared to 105.71 percent for the Lok Sabha, where the numbers are to the government's advantage.

Of the total 22 working days, Rajya Sabha saw 16 marked by disruptions as it saw two major protests.

The first was over foul remarks by union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, which saw proceedings being disrupted for five days (Dec 1-5), even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a statement urging members to forgive her.

The stalemate ended Dec 8 following a statement by Chairman M. Hamid Ansari.

However, it was not the end of problems for the government in the upper house, where it wanted to bring and pass a bill to raise foreign direct investment cap in insurance to 49 percent. The second issue was the vociferous opposition protests over reconversions, and alleged communal statements by ruling party members.

The house was virtually stalled through last week, and the only government businesses done was introduction of anti-hijacking bill, and returning the appropriation bill to Lok Sabha.

The issue figured in the last two days as well, but the opposition gave a window for passage of a bill extending deadline for Delhi's unauthorised colonies, just before the house was adjourned sine die.

Hitting out the opposition, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu charged them with trying to "stall the development agenda" of the government.

"You cannot make the prime minister make a statement on every matter. It is against the principles of collective responsibility," he said.

The government managed to introduce key bills in the Lok Sabha like the constitutional amendment to bring in the goods and service tax, which Naidu termed the "high point of the government's initiatives in this session".

Bills on auction of coal mines, amending the electricity act and the companies act showcase the government's agenda of "economic recovery", he said.

A total of 10 bills were passed by parliament in this session. In addition, eight bills were passed by the Lok Sabha, but could not be taken up in Rajya Sabha due to the disruptions.

"The Lok Sabha passed a record 18 bills this session as compared to 12 in the last budget session and four in the the winter session of last year when the UPA was in power," Naidu said.

While the Rajya Sabha witnessed frequent adjournments due to disruptions, the Lok Sabha worked beyond scheduled hours to transact its business.

According to PRS, the Lok Sabha spent 14 percent of its productive time in answering questions, 35 percent on discussing legislation and 44 percent discussing non-legislative issues. The corresponding figures for Rajya Sabha were 8 percent, 34 percent on discussing legislation and 35 percent.

The question hour in the Rajya Sabha, changed in this session from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., only functioned for 27 percent of its scheduled time as against 84 percent in the Lok Sabha. The session saw the highest number of questions answered orally across all sessions of parliament since 2004.

The Lok Sabha, which saw major discussions on black money, religious conversions, natural calamities and dilution of the rural job guarantee scheme, was not untouched by protests. These saw innovative methods such as members using black umbrellas during the black money discussion to earthen pots to protest "dilution" of the rural job guarantee scheme.

Rajya Sabha discussed issues related to agrarian crisis, black money, sexual assault of a woman by a cab driver and the stand on WTO.

Both houses passed resolutions condemning the attack on school children in Peshawar and the release on bail of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

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