By Kalyani Shankar
New Delhi: The upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament is indeed historic, as, since 1952, the Parliament has never deviated from its tradition. This brief session from September 14 to October 1, will see many firsts including staggered seating, different shifts for both the houses, no breaks during the session and social distancing. Prior to this, the budget session was curtailed on March 23 due to Covid. Despite the fact that the pandemic is still continuing Parliament was required to meet to fulfill the Constitutional stipulation.
Two houses will meet at different times
For the first time the two houses will meet at different times and for just four hours. The MPs have to comply with the social distances and will be spread out in the House, chambers and even lobbies. They will be tested for Covid. As far as possible it will be a paperless session. The session will have just 18 sittings. Members will not be allowed to return to their constituencies during the session.Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu the Speaker Om Birla had arrived at these decisions after several meetings. It is indeed a big challenge to both of them to run the house amidst all these restrictions. The two presiding officers have gone out of their way making preparations for the upcoming session. After several meetings, they have decided to stick to the tradition as far as possible and overcome the difficulties for the hybrid (a mix of digital and physical) session. They have even gone for dress rehearsals to ensure safe and smooth functioning of Parliament.
Going by the indications from the opposition and the treasury benches, the session is likely to be a stormy one. There is a proposal to curtail the question hour in view of the short duration of just four hours each day. The members may find it difficult to run to the well of the house or stage a walkout. There are 11 ordinances, 20 bills, which need the Parliament nod.
The Opposition is sharpening its knives to attack Prime Minister Modi on the handling of the Covid situation. The pandemic continues despite several measures undertaken by both the states and the issue needs to be addressed.
The second is the economy, which has been really hit due to the lock down. The job losses are too many. Millions of Migrant labour is yet to come back. Experts say it might take even two years to come back to normal, despite the government announcing relief measures.
China stand off
The third is the India – China stand off at the Galwan valley. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has demanding transparency on the China front. The congress plans to demand a statement from Prime Minister on the issue.
The fourth is the Kashmir issue. Even after a year the normalcy is yet to return in the state. Development work has been hit due to lock down. The new Governor Manoj Sinha, the second in a year has the task of reviving political discourse, conducting Assembly polls and the delimitation. There is a demand for status quo anti from the local and national parties in the state.
The fifth is the latest controversy on Face book’ s alleged nexus with the BJP. The standing committee on IT headed by Congress leader Dr Shashi Tharoor wants to summon the Face Book chief executive while the BJP is objecting to it.
The sixth is the sale of 32 public sector undertakings and handing over the Railways and airports to private parties.
Sushant Rajput case
The seventh is the actor Sushant Rajput murder case which is pending before the Court. It has created a lot of controversy.
The BJP too is getting ready to face the onslaught andfirm in its resolve to counter the Opposition and not let them gain an edge during the session.
The important question is whether the weak opposition plans to have a joint floor strategy. So far no meetings have been held. The Congress is facing internal turmoil after 23 Congress leaders wrote a letter to the Congress President last month the need to reform the party. Responding to that Sonia Gandhi has restructured the parliamentary team by adding some new members and dropping some. Ahead of last session Sonia called a meeting of 22 parties. As long as opposition is divided it is advantage Modi government.
For some years now, Parliament has seen noisy scenes and walk out. In view of the seriousness of the pandemic due to which people are dying, both the treasury benches and the opposition have the responsibility for the smooth functioning of Parliament. While the government should reach out to the opposition, the latter should play a constructive role.
All this is easier said than done. This is indeed the opportunity for members of all parties to show that they are truly the representatives of people putting aside all other differences.
The million-dollar question is will they?