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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Parliament Live: Will Food Bill be eclipsed by LoC killings? - Firstpost

11.07 am: Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha adjourned following uproar over government statement
The BJP reacted to the news of the killings of five Indian soldiers in Poonch with measured political outrage yesterday. While Yashwant Sinha did try launching an attack on the government with familiar parliamentary metaphors that account for high drama, he was cut short as the House was adjourned.Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, however, took up the issue as threw a host of pointed questions at the government. He also point out the ridiculousness of AK Antony’s statement which almost relieved Pakistan of all charges.
However, with the government releasing a conflicting statement later in the day, the temperature of the debate shot up by several notches today. Also, the person leading the opposition in the Lok Sabha today is not a calculative statesman that Yashwant Sinha is – it is the abrasive Sushma Swaraj who completely seems to be in a combat mode today. It is probably helpful to remind the readers here that Swaraj, unlike Jaitley, has never credited the UPA government with anything vaguely similar to ‘wisdom’. Also, when two soldiers were beheaded, allegedly by the Pakistan Army earlier this year, she had suggested ’10 heads be brought back from Pakistan’ for every Indian head they have claimed. Understandably thus, AK Antony has gone into hiding leavingManmohan Singh ‘s impenetrable silence to deal with the Opposition’s storm.
Swaraj kicked off the session in her trademark fiery mood pointing out the discrepancies in the government’s two statements. She launched an attack on AK Antony immediately saying, “I demand the defence minister turn up in the house and apologise before the country for making such dubious statements on a grave incident like this. It can’t be coincidence that he is not present in the house right now, so I’ll ask the Prime Minister to respond to the demand,” she said.
10: 58 am: Sushma Swaraj serves suspension of question hour notice
As expected the killings of five Indian soldiers in Poonch has already set the momentum for today’s parliament sessions. Leader of the opposition at the Lok Sabha has served a suspension of question hour notice. Soon after the conclusion of the parliament sessions yesterday, the BJP slammed the government pointing out discrepancies in the statements issued by the government.
According to a report on NDTV , BJP leader Yashwant Sinha commented that Antony’s statement was ‘most laughable’. Also, a press statement issued by the government said that the attack was carried out by ‘Pak Border Action Team’, where as Antony said in the House that 20 terrorists aided by people in Pak Army uniforms.
10.30 am: LoC killings to take parliament by storm?
This Monsoon Session of the parliament this year promised to be a stormy one with a handful of widely criticised  bills slated to come up for approval. The food bill has been scheduled for tabling in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, but whether it will be passed or not remains to be seen.
The National Food Security ordinance which needs the parliament’s approval to be made into a bill has evoked widespread debate in the political class. The bill, being viewed as the UPA’s ticket to sweep votes from the masses has faced the Opposition’s heat for being potentially damaging to the country’s economy and growth.
The BJP has been seeking an opportunity to voice its opinions about the food bill. It was also apprehended that dissent pooling against the Congress-led government over the Uttarakhand disaster and ally SP’s treatment of IAS officerDurga Shakti Nagpal could disturb the functioning of the Parliament.
Lok Sabha. AFP.
Lok Sabha. AFP.
In fact, after the BJP relentlessly thwarted attempts to run the parliament in the last session, there were serious doubt about the strategies the party would embrace in the house this time. While the Prime Minister had appealed that the parliament be allowed to function properly, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had taken more of a direct pot-shot at the party on Twitter. He had asked if the BJP plans to let the parliament conducts its businesses smoothly.
However, while the BJP has been more than willing to let the parliament function this time, trouble brewed in other quarters.
A handful of MPs from Andhra Pradesh disrupted the parliament shouting slogans raucously throughout the first day of the session. No bills were discussed and all attempts to do so were drowned by the Andhra MPs and a couple of Bodoland MPs bringing the house down with their statehood demands. Even when on the second day, the house tried to discuss the grave incident of an audacious LoC violation by the Pakistani troops, the Andhra MPs stuck to their demands making it impossible for any party to discuss anything in the Lok Sabha. The lower house was adjourned after a few attempts to facilitate a debate on other issues. The Rajya Sabha too was adjourned twice but a discussion on border security issues finally took off late in the day.
Defence minister AK Antony issued a statement in both the houses condemning the killings of the Indian soldiers. He said that the infiltration and consequent killing of five Indian soldiers were carried out by at least 20 armed terrorists in Pakistani Army uniforms. He even indicated that there has been a sharp increase in infiltration attempts by terrorists.
Leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley brought up the issue of  policy modifications that should follow an incident like the LoC ambush and questioned the nature of diplomatic relations that India maintains with Pakistan. The heat, therefore, will be felt more by Salman Khurshid when he will have to explain India’s diplomatic stand on Pakistan and justify what precious purpose the Indian government’s peace talks have served till now.
Jaitley  also pointed out the section in Antony’s statement where he mentions ‘persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms’. Given that Pakistan’s favourite defence has been denial, Jaitley pointed out that Antony just provided them with an escape route.
To which Antony replied that his statement was a ‘responsible’ one and no conclusion should be drawn without a probe.
Incidentally, 44 bills are supposed to be passed in this session. With two days lost and no bills passed, the parliamentarians will definitely have to get their act back together.
Among the key bills the government seeks to consider and pass in Parliament are this session are:
The National Food Security (Second) Bill, 2013 (to replace the ordinance)
The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013
The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2013
Read the updates from the past first two days of the monsoon session here. 

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