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Hold your tongue & let me pass the budget

- All but one departmental outlay to be passed without discussions today, govt cites Lok Sabha

Calcutta, July 26: The Mamata Banerjee government today cited Lok Sabha precedents to justify its decision to guillotine almost all departmental budgets during tomorrow’s one-day session of the Assembly.

All the departmental budgets, except that of the Mamata Banerjee-controlled health and family welfare, are expected to be guillotined — passed without discussions — in the extended budget session of the Assembly.

The move to guillotine so many departmental budgets together was termed “unprecedented” by Speaker Biman Banerjee and some Trinamul members at an all-party meeting held in the Assembly today.

“This has not happened in the past in the Bengal Assembly. There is no such precedent. But in the Lok Sabha, there are instances when all budget proposals were guillotined. Even this year, the Lok Sabha Speaker guillotined railway and home ministry budgets because of disruptions,” Speaker Banerjee told reporters after chairing the meeting.

The departmental budgets have to be passed by July 31 as the government had brought in a vote-on-account on the 2013-14 budget, allowing it to draw money from the consolidated state fund till that date.

At the all-party meeting, the Left parties suggested that the government pass a vote-on-account for one month and get the full budget passed after discussions.

The Trinamul Congress turned down the proposal. Industries and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee said a vote-on-account would be a “waste of time”.

The Assembly session could not be held earlier as the MLAs were busy with the panchayat polls, whose results will start pouring in from July 29.

Congress and Left members accused the government of shying away from discussions on departmental budgets.

“Guillotining of a good many departmental budgets was a usual practice even during the Left rule. This happens every year, mainly because of paucity of time. But this time, almost all the departmental budgets will be guillotined,” a Trinamul MP said.

Last year, too, the budgets of 31 of the 58 departments were guillotined. Six of them are held by Mamata.

The Left parties wanted a discussion on either the home department budget — to seek the government’s views on the sudden spurt in crime against women — or that of the panchayat department.

RSP MLA and former minister Subhas Naskar alleged that the government deliberately decided to get the budgets passed without discussions.

“All the budgets getting passed in a single day has never happened before. We objected to the government’s move at the all-party meeting. We said the government did not want to face the Assembly,” Naskar said.

Government sources said the health and family welfare department budget would be discussed because of the insistence of the chief minister.