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All eyes will be on the Economic Survey on Monday, the first day of the crucial Budget session of Parliament. The last full Budget session of the 16th Lok Sabha will begin with President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha — his first after being elected to the office.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will table the Economic Survey for 2017-18, days ahead of the fifth and final full Budget of the current term of the Narendra Modi government on Thursday. Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has announced a survey-dedicated webpage — #economicsurvey18. Amid speculation that the Modi government is thinking of advancing the Lok Sabha election from April-May 2019 to November-December 2018, the Economic Survey and the Budget will be gleaned for any such indication, and whether the Budget attempts to reach out to key constituencies of urban middle class and rural voters. An important sideshow will be a meeting of opposition parties on Monday. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has convened the meeting of all the leading opposition parties to discuss their parliamentary strategy for the Budget session as well as electoral strategy for the forthcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
On Friday, Pawar had led a ‘save the Constitution’ rally in Mumbai on the occasion of the Republic Day. Several opposition leaders participated in the rally. The first half of the Budget session is from January 29 to February 9. After nearly a month-long break to give standing committees time to study Budgetary grants, the two Houses will meet again for the second half of the session from March 5 to April 6. The session will have 31 sittings — eight in the first half and 23 in the second.
After a truncated Winter session, which ended on January 5, the first half of the Budget session is also slated to be one of the shortest in recent times. “Number of ‘full’ working days in the first phase of the Budget session are February 5, 6, 7 and 8. Just four days. This government cares two hoots about Parliament,” said Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader in the Rajya Sabha. While January 30 is martyrs’ day, there is a parliamentary holiday on January 31 on account of Guru Ravidas birth anniversary.
Some of key Bills slated to be taken up include the controversial ‘triple talaq’ Bill. The government on Sunday said it will “leave no stone unturned” to ensure the Bill is passed in the Budget session.
The government also convened an all-party meeting on the eve of the session and it was attended by Modi, union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar, and leaders of opposition parties among others. The Opposition was represented at the meeting by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), D Raja (CPI), Kanimozhi (DMK), Derek O’Brien and Sudip Bandhopadhyay (TMC), Tariq Anwar (NCP) and Dushyant Chautala (INLD).
“We will leave no stone unturned for the passage of the triple talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha... We will approach various political parties to evolve a consensus for its passage. Like the GST (goods and services tax) was passed by consensus, this Bill seeking to ban the practice of instant triple talaq (Talaq-e-Biddat) among the Muslims will be passed,” parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said. About the demand raised by various parties during the last session that the Bill be referred to a select committee, he said it was now the property of the Rajya Sabha. “Let the House decide,” Kumar said.
Political considerations will weigh with the government in pushing the Bill. While elections to Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya will take place during the session recess, the Karnataka Assembly poll is scheduled within weeks of the session ending in the first week of April.
The opposition is set to raise issues of rape and atrocities on women, alleged attacks on the Constitution and constitutional institutions, plight of traders, farm distress and the recent incident of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh. Opposition parties will discuss their strategy at the meeting that Pawar has called.
The BJP parliamentary party executive will also hold a meeting on Monday, which will be followed by one of the NDA constituents, to deliberate on strategy for the session.
Key Budget session dates
- Jan 29 — President’s address to joint sitting
- Jan 29 — Tabling of Economic Survey
- Feb 1 — Presentation of the Union Budget
- Jan 29 to Feb 9 — first half of the Budget session
- Feb 10 to Mar 4 — recess
- Mar 5 to Apr 6 — second half of the Budget session
Bills to be taken up during the session
- Key Bills likely to be taken up during the session
- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) or Triple Talaq Bill (passed by LS)
- Consumer Protection Bill (pending in LS)
- Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill (pending in LS)
- State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill (passed by LS)
- National Medical Commission Bill (standing committee to submit report on Friday)
- National Commission for Backward Classes 123rd Constitution Amendment Bill (returned to LS with amendments)
- Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill (standing committee to give its report on the last day of the Budget session)