The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll damper on winter session

New Delhi, Oct. 17: The winter session of Parliament is almost certain to be delayed and curtailed as political parties are pre-occupied with the Assembly elections which they regard as a dress rehearsal for next year’s Lok Sabha polls.

The session is bound to start at least two weeks’ late in a departure from established parliamentary conventions. It normally begins in the third week of November and concludes by Christmas-eve.

It is unlikely that Parliament will sit beyond the Christmas week to make up for the delayed start. This means that the usually month-long winter session will last three weeks at the most.

A formal decision on curtailing the session is yet to be taken. But a Lok Sabha secretariat official said: “It is 99 per cent probable that the two Houses of Parliament may not reassemble after the week-long Christmas and New Year break. The duration of the session might be curtailed by two weeks.”

Leaders of the Opposition Congress reserved their comments, saying they would air their views when the Centre made the dates public. But it appears as though the Centre has sounded out the Congress over delaying the session and has received a favourable response. This is probably because the ruling BJP and the Congress regard the November-December Assembly elections in five states as crucial and a pointer to what will happen in the Lok Sabha polls.

“The five Assembly polls are a mini-general election. Top leaders and Parliament members of all political parties will be preoccupied with the campaigning in the five states. It would, therefore, be difficult for them to attend (the) Parliament session in November,” a senior Congress leader said. Evidently, the major parties are already eyeing the 14th Lok Sabha and its likely composition.

It appears unlikely that the winter session can begin before December 3. Elections for Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi are scheduled for December 1, with counting of votes set for December 4. The fifth state, Mizoram, goes to polls on November 20, but votes will only be counted on December 2.

Campaigning in the four northern states will reach its peak in the second half of next month, with November 29 being the last day for electioneering.

In the past, Parliament sessions have not been affected by Assembly poll campaigns even if some leaders had busy schedules. The delayed start and the likely curtailment may spark fresh criticism for the BJP-led NDA government.

Since it first came to power five years ago, it has been accused of curtailing parliamentary sittings for one reason or another.

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