Budget session likely to conclude before 1st phase of polls
The Budget Session of Parliament is likely to be cut short and may conclude before the first phase of elections on March 27, while the two Houses will resume their normal timing of 11 am onwards from Tuesday, sources said.
Several parties had requested that the session, which was originally scheduled to continue till April 8, be curtailed due to the assembly elections in four states and one union territory being held between March 27 and April 29.
Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu announced the new timings for the Upper House this morning on the first day of the second part of the Budget Session. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla made a similar announcement later in the day.
Birla said Lok Sabha members would also sit in galleries, apparently to maintain distancing norms. Birla made the announcement when the House met at 5 pm after an hour-long adjournment after paying tributes to two sitting and seven former members who died recently.
A final decision on curtailment of the session would also be taken by Birla who met floor leaders of various parties on the matter earlier in the day.
Keeping in mind the distancing norms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Houses were meeting in two shifts since the Monsoon Session, with Rajya Sabha meeting in the first half of the day and Lok Sabha in the second half.
There was no Winter Session of Parliament due to the pandemic.
Some Rajya Sabha members were sitting in Lok Sabha chambers to adhere to distancing norms. Similar was the case with Lok Sabha members. Some Lok Sabha members were also seated in the visitors' gallery above the House chamber.
The move to return to normal timings was taken a day before COVID-19 vaccination drive for members of Parliament begins from Tuesday.
Floor leaders of various political parties on Monday urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to curtail the Budget Session to allow them focus on the assembly polls in four states and one union territory.
At a meeting of Lok Sabha's Business Advisory Committee (BAC), Birla spoke with various floor leaders on a one-on-one basis to take a sense on curtailing the session which began on Monday.
Members of the Trinamool Congress and the DMK did not attend the meeting.
Parliamentary sources said the Biju Janata Dal was of the view that assembly elections keep taking place every few months and the session should not be curtailed on this ground.
YSR Congress Party member P V Midhun Reddy said if the current session is curtailed, the next session should be longer.
Some members said nearly 145 members have written to the Speaker seeking curtailment of the session.
In a letter to the Rajya Sabha chairperson, TMC national spokesperson and RS member Derek O'Brien said due to the polls, MPs of his party would not be able to attend the Parliament session.
"I am writing to you as the parliamentary party leader (Rajya Sabha) for the All India Trinamool Congress. Sir, we urge you to consider the adjournment of the ensuing Parliament session, because of the declaration of elections in five states," he said.
"The Election Commission of India, on 26th February 2021, has announced election for five states, including Bengal. Due to the ongoing intensive election preparations in the State, the members of Parliament from the All India Trinamool Congress would find it difficult to attend the second part of the Budget Session beginning from 8th March 2021," he wrote in the letter.
TMC MP Sudeep Bandyopadhyay has also written to the Lok Sabha Speaker on the same issue, requesting that Parliament be adjourned due to the polls. While O'Brien's letter is dated March 8, Bandyopadhyay had written to the LS Speaker on February 6.
O'Brien, in his letter, mentioned two precedents when Parliament sessions were adjourned due to polls in states.
He cited the example of the 222nd session which commenced on February 21, 2011, and was scheduled to conclude on April 21, 2011. However, due to state assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the House was adjourned sine die on March 25, 2011, he said.
The second instance he provided was of the 214th session which commenced on October 17, 2008, and was adjourned early on October 24, 2008, to meet again on 10 December 2008. The session, as per the original schedule, was to continue up to November 21, 2008. However, due to state assembly elections in some states, the House was adjourned till December 10, 2008.