NEW DELHI (TIP): The three week long monsoon session of Parliament proved to be a complete washout even as the penultimate day of the session witnessed one of the bitterest debates in the history of Lok Sabha.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had been in the eye of a storm throughout the session for her alleged favor to former IPL boss Lalit Modi, took on Rahul Gandhi in a fiery debate. She is considered the country’s best debater and got a chance to vent her feelings after the Speaker allowed an adjournment motion on the issue despite the BJP opposing it throughout the session. As she tore into the Congress, particularly targeting the Gandhi family, Rahul Gandhi also came out with an aggressive performance, perhaps his best till date but nowhere close to Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Arun Jaitely who came to her rescue in a measured but firm tone.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as usual, was absent from the Lok Sabha when the heated debate took place.
Sushma Swaraj, in her vitriolic attack told Rahul : “In your next vacation, when you are alone, read the history of your family and ask mamma, how much money did your father get from Quattrocchi incident ?”. She went on to allege that the Bhopal Gas tragedy accused Warren Anderson was deliberately allowed to flee the country in a quid pro quo for the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s childhood friend Adil Shahryar, who was in US prison serving a 35 year term. Incidentally, Shahryar was given a US Presidential pardon on the day Rajiv Gandhi landed in the US. This was a new revelation but Sushma Swaraj chose her words well even though the arguments were well known.
Rahul Gandhi, who had come prepared with a sheaf of notes, launched an aggressive attack on Sushma Swaraj. He was lustily cheered by a section of Congress MPs. He said that “there are many people who do humanitarian work but Sushma Swaraj is the first to do so silently…..I want to ask her only one question, how much money she and her family received from Lalit Modi…”. He claimed that Sushma Swaraj had accosted him a few days ago and asked why was he was so upset with her. He said he told Sushma Swaraj that he was not upset but that he was speaking the truth. He also claimed that she simply looked away.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, in his measured but severe criticism, said the UPA took steps in the Lalit Modi case but all in the wrong direction. He said Lalit Modi became liable for arrest for the first time only on August 5 this year. Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi, he said Gandhis had mastered the art of living comfortably without working for a living.
Even as the country watched the two sides debating and wasting public money, the Speaker took two unprecedented steps to “shame” the parliamentarians. She asked her watch and ward staff to erect barricades around her seat and also asked the Lok Sabha TV to show what was going on in the House. The earlier instructions were to show only the Speaker when the members were agitating. She said “let the people see murder of democracy” and let people know how “irresponsible” some of the members were.
The stand off between the government and the Congress cost the country dearly. According to data from PRS, a legislative business research organization that monitors parliamentary proceedings, Rajya Sabha’s over all productivity was just 9 per cent. The data showed that Lok Sabha functioned for 45.7 hours during the entire session and Rajya Sabha for just 8.5 hours. The two Houses had functioned for 244.6 hours and 182.7 hours respectively during the budget session.
The stalemate in Parliament did not allow passing of the GST Bill which was initially proposed by the Congress. Again in an unprecedented move a petition with 15000 signatories urged the parliamentarians to pass the Bill but to no avail.
Meanwhile an NGO, Foundation for Restoration of National Values, has moved the Supreme Court, asking the court to frame rules so that the time and money of the nation was not wasted by stalled Parliament. It pointed out that a non functional parliament resulted in a loss of Rs 30,000 of public money every minute. It contended that over the last 19 years, 2163 hours of Lok Sabha’s time had been wasted owing to disruptions of the House. It remains to be seen whether or not Judiciary would enter the Executive territory.