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Truncated winter session leaves unanswered questions
Saturday December 21, 2013 6:39 PM, IANS

Minutes after Rahul Gandhi called for extending the winter session of parliament to pass all anti-graft bills, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the house sine die leaving many questions unanswered even as the government hinted that the house may be reconvened in January.

"I was surprised when the house was adjourned sine die. Though there were reports that there will be an early adjournment, but after the Lokpal bill was passed and senior Congress leaders said more bills will be passed, we were not really expecting parliament to end two days in advance," an MP, who did not want to be identified, told IANS.

For some it was not a big surprise though.

"The members were aware... In any case, the house was not functioning and was embarrassing for for everybody, and there was also a no confidence motion," Sikkim Democrat Front MP P. D. Rai told IANS.

He however took a jibe at Rahul Gandhi's saying: "There is a disconnect between what Rahul Gandhi thinks, whoever writes his speech and what Kamal Nath (parliamentary affairs minister) tells".

The Congress has said the government adjourned the house due to repeated disruptions. "When the house is not allowed to function, what is the point of the parliament session. Even a bill like Lokpal had to be passed in din," Meem Afzal, the Congress spokesperson, said.

Afzal added that since the house has not been prorogued, a second part of the session may be called.

After being adjourned sine die, the parliament session is prorogued by the president, which means discontinuing the sitting of the house without dissolving it. Once prorogued, parliament can be reconvened only when the president calls the next session. A sine die adjourned house can, however, be reconvened by the chair after a date for the sitting is decided.

"The government is willing to take up more bills, so the session was not prorogued. We will talk to other political parties and if there is a consensus the second part of the session may be called in January," Afzal told IANS.

Some sources however say the government felt the heat over the formation of Telangana, leading to an early adjournment.
"Pressure on Telangana issue cannot be denied, unless they are pacified nothing can be done. Perhaps by the time the second half of winter session is called, government may find some way to pacify both Telangana and Rayalaseema MPs," said another Congress leader, who declined to be named.

Rai added: "The situation will depend on how Telangana affair plays out. Government also has to pass some bills".

Members from Andhra Pradesh, including six from Congress, had given the notice for a no-confidence motion against the government which was not taken up as the lower house could not be brought to order.

If the parliament session had continued, the no-confidence motion would have caused major embarassment to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government which took the decision to carve out the new state of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh despite stiff opposition from some sections.

M.R. Madhavan, president, PRS Legislative Research, however says it cannot be claimed with certainty that the Telangana bill will be taken up in the extended session in January.

"The government has a huge pending legislative agenda, but I don't know what they are trying to take up if they extend the winter session. Even for the Telangana bill, the president has given the state assembly six weeks to take an opinion on the bill," Madhavan told IANS.

The president sent the bill to the Andhra Pradesh assembly Dec 12. The six week period will end Jan 22. "I am not sure if the Telangana bill can be taken up in the second half of this session," he added.

But the government's idea of calling a second part of the winter session in January throws up the question why this session was ended prematurely.

According to Chakshu Roy, Head of Outreach, PRS Legislative Research, by extending the winter session the interim budget may be passed by the government in the same session, saving it the trouble of calling for a vote-on-account on the interim budget before the general elections scheduled April-May next year.

This has happened earlier too. In the 13th Lok Sabha the president did not prorogue the winter session of 2003, and a second part of the session was called in January to pass the interim budget. This was at the fag end of the term of the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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