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Gujarat election may postpone winter session of Parliament

By Neerja Chowdhury
October 20, 2012 21:37 IST
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The winter session of Parliament which was expected to commence in the third week of November, as it usually does, may now get postponed, according to the current thinking inside the government.

What is more important, it may also get truncated to a few sittings only, possibly inside of a week, which would be unprecedented.

Whatever be the official explanation given for the delay, there is a growing opinion inside the ruling Congress, that it would be 'suicidal' to have Parliament meet in November and have the Opposition attack the ruling dispensation over Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra or Law Minister Salman Khurshid, in the run-up to the critical Gujarat polls due on December 13 and 17.

As a senior Congress leader put it, reflecting the Congress's growing concern about what the Opposition would do to up the ante against the government, "Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi can then sit back and relax as the media beams the charges from Parliament day after day."

It seems that even the Bharatiya Janata Party would not mind a postponement of the winter session. They too may not want to be embarrassed at the peak of the Gujarat election campaign about issues such as the charges levelled by Arvind Kejriwal againstĀ  the party president Nitin Gadkari. Though the party brass has rubbished them, it has come as an embarrassment.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal had made a case for at least 19 sittings in the winter session to push through the pending legislative agenda. Having taken some steps already towards 'big bang reforms', the government had wanted to push ahead with more and get the pensions and Insurance bills, allowing for 49 per cent FDI in these sectors, passed.

But if the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha meet only after the Gujarat election, that is after December 20, which is the counting day, Parliament will only be meeting for a few days before Christmas and New Year break sets in. The other alternative would be for it to meet in the New Year.

As it is, the non-functioning of Parliament has come in for sharp criticism of late and the ruling side has held the Opposition responsible for successive sessions being such a washout.

But this time it will be the ruling combine which will be making a case for shortening the session, and at a time when there is a demand for a minimum of 100 sittings a year.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliament was to meet and take a view on the dates for the winter session last Friday. But its meeting got postponed to facilitate another round of consultations at the top level.

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Neerja Chowdhury in New Delhi
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