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Vote-on-account likely on Jan 22

BS Political Bureau in New Delhi | January 05, 2004 09:07 IST

A vote-on-account during a two-day session on January 21 and 22 seems inevitable as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on pesticide standards has been asked to wind up its investigations and submit its report by January 20 at the very latest.

A member of the JPC on pesticide levels in beverages and bottled water said JPC Chairman Sharad Pawar had, barely two weeks ago, sought an extension of the JPC's tenure to enable it to complete its research.

Members were to have gone on tour from January 4 to take a look at laboratories and beverage plants all over India to acquaint themselves with the technical aspects of the study.

However, at the 11th hour, members were told their trip had been cancelled because the JPC would now be required to submit its report by January 20.

"Obviously, this means the government wants to bring a vote-on-account on January 21 or 22," the member said. A two-day session is necessary for obituaries.

Members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on pesticides say they now have a choice between writing a hurried report and recommending a thorough study of pesticide levels be carried out by the next House; or not submitting a report and letting the JPC die with the House.

Coca Cola and Pepsi were to have deposed before the committee on 15 and 16 January. Members are not sure if this will now happen.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on standards will not be the only casualty of a vote-on-account and dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the stocks scam has given its report but the government is required to submit "action-taken reports" every six months on the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee. This will die with the House.

Also slated for sure death is the much-hyped value-added tax, which would have increased states' revenues by about Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion).

This too is likely to be deferred to the next financial year when a new government comes to power after the Lok Sabha polls.

"Political parties are non-committal before the Lok Sabha polls and there is unlikely to be an all-party meeting to prepare the new roadmap for the value-added tax now," officials said.

The other issues that have been left for political consensus are the setting up of the Chief of Defence Staff and quotas for the poor among the forward castes.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said a decision on both would be taken only after all-party consultations. This is unlikely to happen now until after the general elections.

Several important Bills in the Lok Sabha will die with it. These include the lok pal Bill, the women's reservation bill, the airports authority Bill, the Bill to regulate the working of non-banking financial companies, the port trust Bill, a Bill to regulate the working of actuaries, the Bill for setting up the petroleum regulatory authority, the communications convergence Bill and the two or three Bills relating to the company law.

Significantly, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha had adjourned the two Houses sine die after the last session, but the President is yet to prorogue the House.

Therefore, the two-day meeting of Parliament for the vote-on-account will not technically be a new session, it will be part of the last session and the President will therefore not be required to address a joint sitting, as is customary.

The 21-day summons necessary to get MPs back to the capital will also not be necessary now.

After the vote-on-account, the government is likely to recommend dissolution of the House to the President, which he will announce by proclamation.

The ball will then be in the Election Commission's court, which is likely to call an all-party meeting to discuss the election schedule, meet home secretaries and chief secretaries of all the states to elicit their views on suitable days and consider the security point of view.

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