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Demonetisation: Whips issued, BJP, Congress get set for debate in Parliament

Demonetisation: The latest sticking point is who will speak first, with the government insisting that the debate will be initiated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, an idea the opposition parties are not comfortable with.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi |
December 14, 2016 1:26:09 am
Demonetisation, demonetisation news, Parliament, BJP, Congress, debate on demonetisation, Lok Sabha, Narendra Modi, India news, Indian Express Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the 2001 Parliament attack, on its 15th anniversary at Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

A day before Parliament reconvenes after a four-day break, both the BJP and the Congress issued whips on Tuesday, asking their party MPs to be present in both Houses for the rest of the session ahead of the expected stormy end to the session over the demonetisation debate. With three days remaining in the session, there are indications that the government has reached an informal agreement with the Opposition on aborting the discussion on demonetisation under Rule 193 and get it going as a no-rule discussion.

But that may not be sufficient to get the Lok Sabha to transact business, following days of logjam over the rule under which the issue should be discussed.

The latest sticking point is who will speak first, with the government insisting that the debate will be initiated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, an idea the opposition parties are not comfortable with. While the going may still be rough for the Lower House, Rajya Sabha is likely to pass the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 in a brief remission of hostilities, much like it had unanimously passed the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill a year back after days of disruptions.

Sources said GST is unlikely to make it in the current session given the disruptions. The government, they added, is looking at convening a two-day special session for the purpose.

Informal parleys between the Opposition and the government have reportedly reached an understanding that the demonetisation discussion will not be taken up under either of the two voting rules — 56 and 184 — that the Opposition is demanding, nor will it be discussed under the non-voting rule 193, which had technically started with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan calling out the name of the first speaker, Jithender Reddy, although it could not take off due to protests by opposition MPs. Both sides, it is learnt, have reached an agreement on a no-rule discussion but there is a trust deficit.

The Opposition, which had its say in Rajya Sabha but has since disrupted proceedings and not allowed the government to put its point across, is apprehensive that it may be meted out the same treatment in the Lok Sabha if Jaitley starts the discussion. “It could be a trap…Jaitley speaks at length and then when the Opposition tries to speak, their 300 MPs disrupt,” a source said. “Then the whole point of making our voices heard on demonetisation will be lost. The final decision will be taken at the meeting on Wednesday.”

The Congress is particularly keen that its vice-president Rahul Gandhi speaks in Parliament — Rahul has said that there will be an earthquake when he speaks on the demonetisation “scam” in the House. However, the trust deficit may mean that even if the Congress is keen on starting the discussion, with the government having the first say, the party may be dissuaded by others at the strategy meeting tomorrow.

Sources said chances of the demonetisation discussion resuming in the Rajya Sabha are slim but the Disability Bill may make the cut. Meanwhile, Opposition parties will also hold meetings and coordinate public messaging on demonetisation. All of them are already using the #demonetisation hashtag on Twitter.

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