COVID-19: Govt may take call on adjourning Parliament today

Opposition is gearing up to question the government on why it was adamant on running the Parliament when it involves a high risk of coronavirus infection

Of the total 24 seats for the Rajya Sabha, five candidates — four in Karnataka and one in Arunachal Pradesh — were elected unopposed. File photo: PTI

With the coronavirus crisis taking a dramatic turn over the weekend, the government is likely to take a call on cutting short the Budget session of the Parliament, after clearing the Finance Bill.

Till Friday, the government was insisting that Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha should run according to schedule, with Parliament showing leadership to handle the Covid-19 pandemic with confidence.

However, the Dushyant Singh saga has exposed how continuation of the Budget session could result in a higher risk of MPs, ministers and even the top leadership contracting the virus that is wreaking havoc worldwide.

Besides, the Madhya Pradesh Assembly floor test is no more a live issue where the Congress could point out early end to the Budget session to buttress its case for not convening the Madhya Pradesh assembly in a hurry.

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Opposition wants early curtains

The opposition parties are gearing up to question the government on why it was
adamant on running the Parliament when it involves a high risk of coronavirus infection to the political leadership of the country.

Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien is slated to take the lead in the Rajya Sabha, has expressed his reservations on Friday after he found that Dushyant Singh, who was sitting next to him, had met Covid-19 infected Kanika Kapoor at a social gathering. Many others including Varun Gandhi and Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal had to go into self-quarantine due to their interaction with Dushyant Singh.

Subsequent tests have cleared Dushyant Singh, but the apprehension still fresh in the minds of the affected persons. Congress leader Anand Sharma has also been emphasising repeatedly that continuation of the Upper House was a risk to its members, of which many are senior citizens.

Not a precedent for MP Assembly

When the BJP was pushing for floor test in Madhya Pradesh Assembly that was adjourned citing the coronavirus, it was felt that early end to Parliament’s Budget session would give Congress a precedent to site. Now that Kamal Nath government has quit and decks have been cleared for an invitation to BJP to form government in the state, any the decision to cut short the Budget session will not make any difference now.

Finance Bill pending

While the Opposition may once again demand curtailment of the Budget session of the Parliament, the government wants the Finance Bill to be cleared, with all other approvals necessary from both Houses.

Discussions on the Budget are behind schedule as one week of Parliament’s official agenda was left handing due to disruptions over Delhi riots. Now, Demands for Grants, Finance Bill and related approvals have to be given quickly since that is necessary for approving Central government expenditure for the 2020-21 financial year. This may include additional commitments to fight Covid-19 pandemic and the government is planning to push its agenda at full speed.

Lok Sabha will be sitting only in the afternoon on Monday and the first half of the day is likely to be utilised for behind-the-scenes discussions on early end to the ongoing Budget session of Parliament.

Many parties on the same page

With West Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Telangana and Chhattisgarh announcing virtual lockdown and many other states including Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat deciding on partial lockdown to block the spread of coronavirus, the stage is set for almost all opposition parties supporting the early end of the Budget session of Parliament.

Having shut down even sub-urban train services, Maharashtra is also now fully occupied with fighting COVID-19. This shift in focus over the weekend is likely to strengthen renewed calls for not going ahead with the Parliament session till April 3. Many MPs have also been wondering on how Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha can run when Delhi is under lockdown and gatherings have been prohibited.

A week ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told BJP MPs that Parliament should continue, but that view may come up for reconsideration after the massive response to his call for ‘Janata curfew’ on Sunday. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman have been applying their minds to the demands from MPs and they are likely to shape the final decision in consultation with top ministers and political leaders.

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