The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM voices Parliament worry
- Speaker rings ‘disaster’ alert

New Delhi, Aug. 26: Speaker Somnath Chatterjee voiced concern over the future of the parliamentary system and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again called for a code of conduct for politicians as the acrimonious budget session ended today, a week ahead of schedule.

Both expressed concern that proposals worth Rs 500,000 crore were passed without discussion as the Opposition persisted with its protest in the House.

Chatterjee, before adjourning the House sine die, took a dig at Atal Bihari Vajpayee, reminding him that as Prime Minister, he had advised MPs “to express their views within the parameters of the rules and dignity of the House”.

He said Vajpayee had repeatedly stressed that the sanctity of question hour should be maintained.

The Speaker said he would call a meeting of the Rajya Sabha chairman and leaders of all parties before the winter session begins in November to discuss ways to ensure there is no repeat of what happened in the budget session.

In identical speeches at the end of the session in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, Singh slammed the bid to subvert Parliament. He said the time had come for parties to evolve a code of conduct for behaving inside and outside the House. “We should look inside us. All political parties must evolve a code of conduct for behaving inside and outside Parliament,” Singh said, repeating what he had said in his Independence Day speech.

The Prime Minister said the budget session is for MPs to discuss mobilisation of resources and proper utilisation of funds and regretted that “this has not happened this time”. It is a “sad reflection”, he said. “Where are we leading this country to'”

Singh said he was “sad” the budget had to be passed without a discussion and hoped that a mechanism would be found before the winter session to ensure that “what has happened in recent months... truly becomes a thing of the past”.

“We are living through abnormal times.... We could not find time to debate vital issues in the presidential address. We also saw that vital financial business of the country can be passed without serious dialogue, debate and discussion,” Singh said. “This does not augur well for democracy and (the) parliamentary system as a whole.”

“I feel sad at the end of the day. We have to reflect at the consequences,” he added. “There is no problem that cannot be resolved through dialogue.”

If Parliament is not allowed to function normally, “this is something we must be worried about”, the Prime Minister said, asserting that power was “societal trust” and not meant for “narrow, temporary, sectional whims but for public good”.

Chatterjee warned that the loss of people’s faith in parliamentary democracy could “degenerate into dictatorship”, which, he said, would be “nothing but disaster”.

The Speaker said he was sad that the railway and general budgets were passed without discussion “owing to continued disturbances and forced adjournments” of the House.

“What impression of our conduct did they carry back home'” the Speaker said, referring to the recent visit by a group of schoolchildren who witnessed the turmoil in the House and its adjournment.

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