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Hat-trick of embarrassments awaits Govt in Rajya Sabha

A united Opposition is expected to move amendments to the motion of thanks for the President’s address on how note ban was a mess. Archis Mohan reports.

In the Budget sessions of Parliament in 2015 and 2016, a united Opposition in the Rajya Sabha embarrassed the Narendra Modi government in the debate on the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament.

This year, the Modi government is set to face a hat-trick of such embarrassments.

The Opposition, which has more numbers in the Rajya Sabha than the ruling benches, plans to again move an amendment to the official motion of thanks, this time to include how demonetisation caused widespread pain and led to deaths of over 100 people.

On Thursday, the Rajya Sabha took up the discussion on the motion of thanks.

Opposition parties criticised the government for the “ill-conceived” demonetisation decision. Their members also moved amendments to the motion.

The President’s address on Tuesday had stated that note ban was done to combat “the evils of black money, corruption, counterfeit currency and terrorist financing”.

The leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad and others argued that demonetisation failed to accomplish any of its objectives.

Opposition members are likely to demand a vote to have the government include a paragraph that the note ban was badly planned, poorly implemented and caused hardships to the people.

The address is drafted and vetted by the Cabinet and is a vision statement of the government for that year. It is read out by the President on the first day of the first session of each year.

Usually, opposition members withdraw these amendments on the express request of the government of the day and also as a mark of parliamentary cooperation.

There have, however, been five occasions, all in the Rajya Sabha and two of these in the tenure of the Modi government, when the Opposition has voted to successfully amend the government’s motion of thanks.

These were in 1980, 1989, 2001, 2015 and 2016, indicative of the bad blood between the Opposition and the government of the day.

In 2015, opposition leaders even went to the length of not talking with each other on their mobile phones to keep their coordinated efforts to embarrass the government a secret.

They successfully voted against the motion to have it include the line that the House regretted there being “no mention in the address about the failure of the government to curb the high level of corruption and to bring back black money”.

In 2016, the Opposition amendment regretted the address did not mention that the government was committed to securing the fundamental rights to contest elections at all levels, including panchayat elections.

This came in the backdrop of laws in Rajasthan and Haryana having been changed to make matriculation mandatory for contesting these polls. Both the states have the Bharatiya Janata Party governments.

On Thursday, Azad targeted the government on the situation in Kashmir and on demonetisation. He said the government had become intolerant of criticism, where those opposing its policies are denounced as anti-nationals. An “undeclared Emergency” had been imposed.

From the government’s side, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad pointed at the sundry scams during the Congress-led governments and how the Modi government had ushered in corruption-free administration.

Source: Rediff