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Winter session of Lok Sabha ends: 13 Bills passed amid din


Curtains came down on the winter session of Parliament on Thursday, with the Lok Sabha (where the government has a majority) logging a productivity of 102 per cent. The Rajya Sabha, which faced continuous disruptions, was only half as productive at 50 per cent.The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government's efforts at pushing through the goods and services tax (GST) Bill came a cropper with the Opposition digging in its heels, asking for specific changes in the Bill.

The Congress disrupted the Upper House and 55 hours were lost over court summons to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case; the overthrowing of the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister; and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's alleged role in the Delhi & District Cricket Association scam. While the Lok Sabha passed 13 Bills in 20 working days, the Rajya Sabha tried to make up for the lost time by passing three Bills within 30 minutes on the last day.

According to PRS Legislative Research, while the Lok Sabha clocked in 115 working hours, the Upper House worked for only 57 hours. In fact, the Rajya Sabha spent only nine hours on legislating while the Question Hour was practically washed out for the entire session. The hostility between the Treasury benches and the Opposition spilled over from the monsoon session, when the Congress had demanded the resignation of BJP Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Cutting across party lines, the Opposition demanded a debate on the “growing intolerance" in the country. The debate took place in the Lok Sabha, but could not take place in the upper House owing to disruptions. Defending itself from criticism of its disruptive tactics in Parliament, Congress leaders questioned the 'self goal' by the government – the raid on Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's office by the Central Bureau of Investigation while probing his principal secretary and the 'coup' on the elected government in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Gauhati High Court “vindicated the Congress stand in its indictment of the Governor", Congress leaders said.

The winter session was also the first time in its 10 months in office that the government, in a bid to push the GST Bill, reached out to the Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh over tea. Among the main Bills that were passed are the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill; the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill; and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill.

Owing to protests by the Congress, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had to expunge her own “vested interests" remarks made in the House about protesting Congress members. Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari lamented the loss of business being transacted. “It reflects adversely on the parliamentary process and our commitment to it. There is an imperative need to dispel this impression," he said.

The first two days of the session were devoted to commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar and a discussion on his contributions.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu attacked the Congress for using its numbers to 'paralyse' the Rajya Sabha. He backed the campaign for redefining the role of the Upper House with the two Houses “pulling in different directions". Naidu accused the Congress of “cheating the people" by not allowing the government to do “what is expected of it".

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