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Centre fails to pass Citizenship Bill in RS

Students celebrating the government’s failure to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Rajya Sabha, in Guwahati on Wednesday. – AT Photo
 NEW DELHI, Feb 13 - The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 died a natural death on Wednesday after the NDA government chose not to place it in Rajya Sabha for discussion and passage. [The Bill is set to lapse on June 3 when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends as it could not be passed in Rajya Sabha that adjourned sine die on Wednesday, reports PTI. The Budget Session was the last Parliament session of the present government.]

The development leaves the ruling NDA government with the only option of bringing an ordinance replacing the citizenship Bill. But the possibility seems remote as the mood within the BJP is not to press ahead with the issue any further because they have lost the political initiative.

In a day of high political drama, the Opposition struck a bargain with the government in the presence of Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkahaiah Naidu in his chamber this morning before the proceedings of the House began.

Congress MP and member of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) Bhubaneswar Kalita divulged that the opposition parties conveyed to Naidu that they are willing to pass the government business, including the Motion on President’s Address, the Interim Budget and a couple of pending Bills without any discussion by voice vote. “We made it clear that only those Bills on which there was a consensus will be passed,” Kalita said.

The Rajya Sabha Chairman, who reportedly played a crucial role, insisted on smooth conduct of business. The government also did not press further and agreed to the format and came to a mutual arrangement to pass the pending Bills without much fuss.

On the flip side, the NDA government was faced with the prospect of facing irate Samajwadi Party MPs who had stalled the House yesterday and agitated Trinamool Congress MPs who wanted to stall the proceedings on account of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s dharna today. The ruling NDA chose not to press with the contentious Bills and agreed to the Opposition’s formula.

Sources said that the agitation in the Northeast, particularly the violent incidents in Manipur and display of placards announcing independence in Mizoram, led to a rethink at the highest echelon of the government and a decision was apparently taken late last night not to go ahead with the citizenship Bill.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who is taking a lead role in opposing the citizenship Bill, was informed about the change of position by the government last night itself, sources revealed.

Anxious Congress members, including former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Pradyut Bordoloi and other senior party leaders, waited in the Central Hall of Parliament, while Rakibul Hussain and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti adviser Akhil Gogoi were present in the visitor’s gallery of Rajya Sabha. An AGP delegation led by party president Atul Bora has been camping in the national capital since Sunday.

The Rajya Sabha Chairman adjourned the Zero Hour soon after some MPs started a ruckus. When the House reassembled, the chairman started with the Motion on President’s Address and those members, who had moved amendments, withdrew it.

The House then took up the discussion on the Interim Budget and the Finance Bill, which was moved by Minister of State for Finance Shiv Prakash Shukla. The motion was soon adopted without any discussion.

It was then turn of legislative business and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019. It was also passed without discussion.

On the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 there were some interruptions by Sukhendu Shekhar Ray of Trinamool Congress, which resulted in the chairman adjourning the House till 12:30 pm.

The House then took up the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Third Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was moved by Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and passed it without any discussion.

Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal introduced the National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019.

Later the chairman delivered his winding up address stating that since June 2014, Rajya Sabha held 18 sessions and 329 sittings till today and passed 154 Bills. It comes to less than a Bill in two sittings and this legislative output is 34 lesser than the 188 Bills passed during 2009-2014 and an astonishing 97 Bills lesser than the 251 Bills passed by Rajya Sabha during 2004-09, he said.

Naidu noted with concern that since 2014 the House could make use of only 60 per cent of the time available and lost 40 per cent of the valuable time on account of disruptions. Of the total 18 sessions over the last five years, the chairman noted that the productivity of the House has been below the five-year average of 60 per cent in respect of eight sessions.

The chairman said that while the average sittings of the House per year since 2014 was as per the trend of 60 to 70, a steep decline in the productivity of the House was a matter of serious concern.

“I have made my best possible efforts to enable normal functioning of the House but reason did not prevail. I have been regularly talking to leaders of various parties but my anguish had no impact. This only expressed the limitations of the Chair in altering the scripts of some sections of the House,” he added.

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