New Delhi: The monsoon session of Parliament, which is expected to commence in the second week of September, could be a truncated one with strict social distancing norms in place amid the covid-19 pandemic.
It is very likely that the usual month-long session could be curtailed to 10-14 days with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) faced with the task of dispelling perceptions that the government was shying away from discussing major issues on the floor of the two Houses.
“The biggest challenge for the union government is to hold a Parliament session when number of cases of covid-19 are increasing and in a way it is a challenge for all political parties also to hold a Parliament session under such difficult situation. We are expecting that the monsoon session could be for 10 working days and not for the usual month long,” said a senior leader of NDA aware of the development.
Members of the NDA point out that while Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu are working out the details and have proposed possible alternate dates and timings for the sitting of two Houses, an initial thought was also given to the possibility of holding the monsoon session using online technologically tools.
“If the monsoon session is not held within the six months of the previous session then it will lead to a Constitutional crisis in the country. There has been a concerted attempt by Congress led opposition to brand Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unconstitutional, this has continued for almost six years. BJP-NDA combine is not going to give an opportunity to opposition parties to defame the ruling alliance,” said the NDA leader.
According to people aware of the development, the BJP-NDA combine expects the opposition parties to try to raise issues related to standoff between India and China in Ladakh, the controversy of PM Cares Fund, the problem of migrant workers during covid-19 lockdown, the handling of coronavirus pandemic, state of economy and the recent controversy over Facebook and use of social media.
“The focus of NDA would be the passage of ordinances, especially related to agriculture and those that have been brought during the lockdown,” the NDA leader said.
Senior leaders of the opposition said the union government’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic, financial assistance to the states, economic slowdown, temporary suspension of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) fund and the push for One Nation, One Agriculture market could be some of the key issues that can be taken up. They added that it could be difficult to raise issues unitedly on the floor of the House because the seating will be more spread out to take care of social distancing norms.
“Handling of the covid-19 pandemic and economy is the key issue. Practically for the last five months and more there has been no expansive discussion on these two issues and that is going to be the focus. The kind of concerns that state governments have been raising including lack of robust financial assistance and pushing farm changes through ordinance will also be our focus,” a senior Congress Lok Sabha MP said requesting anonymity.
“We are hearing that a shorter monsoon session could begin in second week of September. This is going to be a different kind of session because we know that most party leaders are going to be spread across in different galleries and halls. If we want to raise an issue together, coordination and discussion is going to be a big challenge,” the leader quoted above added.
A week ago, the Rajya Sabha secretariat released broad guidelines on holding of the session which includes staggered timings of both the Houses, spaced out seating spread to different galleries, large display screens and special cables connecting the two Houses for transmission of audio-visual signals being considered. In-person meetings of parliamentary committees are already taking place for over a month now.