The election effect is showing. As parties gear up to face elections in exactly a year's time -- assuming the elections are on schedule -- they have other things on their mind than parliamentary business.
A comparison of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 budget sessions shows dismal results. The earlier two years were no better but this year's budget session has seen less work by Parliament than in the last two years. Little wonder then that the budget session 2008 has been the shortest in the last three years.
Lok Sabha functioned for 32 days in 2007 budget session while this year's session became the shortest budget session of the Parliament in the recent past, with just 28 sittings (the original plan was to have a 35-day session but the Karnataka elections intervened). Rajya Sabha functioned for 30 days while it sat for 31 days in the budget session of 2007 and 37 days in 2006.
Three years ago, in 2005, Parliament had the longest budget session with 39 days.
This year, the United Progressive Alliance government managed to pass 9 non-financial Bills along with the Finance Bill, 2008, during the session whereas in the last budget session it passed as many as 22 bills, including the General and the Railway Budget.
During Budget Session 2007, Lok Sabha spent 9 per cent and Rajya Sabha spent 12 per cent of its time on discussions related to Bills other than Finance Bill and Appropriation Bills.
The corresponding figures for Budget Session 2006 were 12 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. This year's figures are not available, but Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed 20 Bills each.
The record in terms of the number of hours MPs sat suggests that while the spirit may or may not have been willing, the flesh was weak. The Lok Sabha worked on a daily average of 5.8 hours as against a plan of 6 hours.
Similarly, in the Upper House, a daily average of 4.7 working hours was achieved as against plan of 5 hours in 2008. 16.8 hours were spent for question hour in Lok Sabha and 20.10 hours in Rajya Sabha.
In 2007, question hour in the Rajya Sabha lasted for 13 hours and 4 minutes and 13 hours and 22 minutes in Lok Sabha. In Lok Sabha, 105 questions were replied orally, which shows an increase from just 75 questions during the 2007 session.
Among the various issues discussed during the session, the price rise remained the main focus of the opposition and even some of the UPA partners like the Left.
Apart from the customary Finance Bill, the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, Delimitation (amendment) Bill and Aircraft Carriages Bill were also passed. Parliament also passed the budget for Karnataka as the state is under President's rule. However, according to sources, 34 bills, of which 21 have been referred by Parliamentary Standing Committees, are still pending.