Budget session: Great expectations

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The budget session of Parliament is likely to be a boisterous one with a lot of controversial issues that will be raised by the opposition. Although parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi has stated that Modi government is ready to face all the issues, the opposition is sharpening its knives. The session is important, as it is the first session of the year in 2021. The session will commence on January 29 and the Union Budget will be presented on February 1. The session will conclude by April 8, with a recess of 20 days between February 15 and March 8. President Ramnath Kovind will address the customary joint session on January 29, followed by the placing of an Economic Survey the next day and on February 1 the budget will be presented by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Budget making at a time of pandemic is indeed a difficult process. Breaking the age-old tradition the finance ministry this time has decided to go paperless and will not print the Budget 2021.

All eyes are on the government, as the budget would shed light on how the government allocates the funds to different sectors. Sitharaman has promised to build a stronger economy like never before’. The budget will be an unprecedented one, she had stated, as never had been such a situation “where tax collections are struggling to keep up with the budgeted number and “the demand for goods and services is sluggish.”  The opposition has enough ammunition to attack the government including the Covid vaccination drive, the ongoing farmer’s agitation, economy, China’s aggressive postures, price rise, job scenario, the continuation of the CAA agitation, the plan to construct a new Parliament building for Rs 20000 crore, etc.

The question is that will the opposition be effective as it is divided. There is no tall leader who could unite them although the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi tries to hold a meeting before the session. There are speculations that the non-BJP, Non-Congress Opposition might unite under the NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Congress is undergoing a crisis with a section of leaders questioning the Gandhi family. The party has bought time with the promise of an AICC session in early 2021. Though the BJP is close to getting a majority in the Rajya Sabha, the strategy is to divide the opposition to get even controversial legislation passed. The lawmakers should do their duty of scrutinizing the budget and keep the government on its toes. The way a responsible opposition would function is to use the question hour, calling attention motions and debate on the President’s address to hold the government accountable. The government too should take the opposition into confidence. But both believe in confrontation.  With elections to five states are on the horizon, the parties will play to the gallery most probably. What is a matter of concern is that the country lacks a strong Opposition and vigilant Opposition because a vibrant democracy needs one. The opposition parties should show a united face in Parliament. When Rajiv Gandhi won 403 seats in 1984, the opposition with a dozen vocal leaders brought out the Bofors scam successfully which led to his ouster.

 

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