NEW DELHI: The crucial Budget session of Parliament is set for a stormy start with as many as 18 opposition parties announcing their decision to boycott the President’s address to a joint sitting of both houses on Friday, in solidarity with the farmers agitating against the three contentious farm laws.
The session is also likely to witness acrimonious scenes, with the opposition all set to corner the government on issues like recession, job losses, handling of COVID crisis, LAC stand-off with China and the WhatsApp chat leaks of Arnab Goswami.
Alleging that the farm laws have been pushed by the BJP government without a national consensus, the opposition parties announced their decision on Thursday to boycott the President’s address, a move termed as “most unfortunate” by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi.
To seek the cooperation of various parties for the smooth functioning of the Budget session, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has convened a meeting of all political parties on Friday which is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The session will begin with the President’s address followed by the presentation of the Economic Survey.
The Union Budget will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.
Both the houses will also debate on the Motion of thanks to the President’s address after the budget presentation.
The session will be held in two parts –January 29 to February 15 and March 8 to April 8 and will have a total of 33 sittings.
With the session starting barely days after the national capital witnessed unprecedented violence on Republic Day during the farmers’ tractor parade, the issue is expected to echo in Parliament.
A total of 18 Opposition parties including the Congress, the NCP, Shiv Sena, DMK, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPI-M and RJD and some other parties have announced that they would boycott the President’s address.
There are over 20 opposition parties in Parliament.
Joshi has appealed to all the parties to reconsider their decision to boycott, saying the President is above party politics.
He also claimed that the BJP has never boycotted the President’s address when it was in the opposition, and said the issues raised by the opposition parties can be raised during the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address.
The parties that will boycott the President’s address are –the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, National Conference, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI, Indian Union Muslim League, RSP, Peoples Democratic Party, MDMK, Kerala Congress (M) and the All India United Democratic Front.
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The Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party also separately announced their decision of boycotting the address.
“The Prime Minister and the BJP government remain arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response. Shocked by this insensitivity of the government, the opposition political parties, reaffirming the collective demand for the repeal of the anti-farmer laws and in solidarity with the Indian farmers, have decided to boycott the President’s address to both the houses of Parliament,” a joint statement issued by 16 parties said on Thursday.
The statement was released by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Azad alleged that the Opposition is against the manner in which the three bills were passed in Parliament after rules and regulations were “thrown in the dustbin”.
The parties have alleged that the farm bills were brought without any consultations with states and farmer unions, and lacked national consensus.
“Parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed and the laws were pushed through muzzling the Opposition, in brazen violation of Parliamentary rules, practices and conventions.
The very constitutional validity of these laws remains in question,” they said, adding that the laws are an assault on the rights of the states and violate the federal spirit of the Constitution.
Terming the boycott as “unprecedented”, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said, “tomorrow in all likelihood, only the ruling party will be in attendance. This an indication to the degree to which our institutions are being destroyed. It is a sorry state of affairs for parliamentary democracy.”
It is after almost six months that the Parliament will be convened, as the Winter session could not be held due to the COVID pandemic.
With a view to have a paperless Budget, all the documents and the Economic Survey would be made available online soon after the authenticated copies are laid on the Table of the House, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has said.
This session will be held as per COVID-19 protocols, with Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha meeting in shifts of five hours each — with the upper house meeting from 9 AM to 2 PM and the lower house in the evening from 3 PM to 8 PM.
This is also the first time when the members of both the Houses will be seated in three different locations – chambers of both houses and the Central Hall.
The Question Hour, which could not take place during the Monsoon session, has also made a comeback in this session.
The Monsoon session also saw the two Houses working on Saturdays and Sundays.
But this time, Parliament will not sit on weekends.
Private Members’ business, which usually takes place on Friday afternoons, will also be part of the Budget session, according to the Lok Sabha secretariat.
In the previous session, the Private Members’ business was not taken up.
During the session, the government will also push to convert ordinances issued recently into laws.
An ordinance has to be converted into a law within 42 days of the beginning of the session, else it lapses.
The ordinances issued recently include The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020, The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 and The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.