The decision to delay the winter session shows the government is on the defensive, says Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien. He said the government has been on the defensive for the last two months and this is good for the opposition.
“The petrol rollback, first time in three-and-a-half years, was a defensive move. The cut in GST (Goods and Services Tax) rates on about 150 items was a defensive move. The way they have handled parliament dates. Effectively, parliament does not start on December 15 but December 18 as December 16-17 is a weekend and the first day will be for obituaries and private members’ business. These are three defensive moves and it is good news for the opposition,” O’Brien said in an interview to IANS.
The winter session, which lasts about a month, is normally called in the last week of November and concludes days before Christmas.
This year, parliament will meet for its winter session from December 15 to January 5 — and December 25 and 26 have been declared holidays on account of Christmas.
O’Brien, who is leader of the Trinamool Congress in the Rajya Sabha, said the two houses will not have a chance to discuss India’s position at the crucial World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meet next month which has implications for the “agrarian crisis” in the country.
He said the WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires will end on December 14, before the start of the winter session.
“So whatever decisions are taken at WTO, parliament will not get a chance to discuss them. There are some clauses in the WTO agreement which may need to have been discussed in parliament. This a very important issue,” O’Brien said.
He said that India is barred under WTO rules from introducing new procurement programmes where the government procures more than 10 percent of the value of the crop and a permanent solution for this problem was sought to be achieved at the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting.
“But the government now says that it shall not pursue this permanent solution. He (Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu) is relying on an interim ‘peace clause’ of 2013. But that peace clause only protects procurement programmes existing in 2013 and not new ones. This will undermine our ability to address the ongoing agrarian crisis in India,” O’Brien said.
He also took a dig at the government for calling the session during the Christmas season and said people will decide if the government’s decision on timing of the winter session was correct.
“If the PM/the BJP now wants to call parliament on Christmas Day, I will tell you I am coming there. Because if I start saying I won’t go, they want these issues. I am not going to allow them to get the benefit of polarisation. I will go to the church on 24th night and come. I will wish my mother in the night.”
“But the fact of the matter is let the people can decide whether parliament has been called at the right time or the wrong time, they will know. They are intelligent”, O’Brien told IANS.
“Tell me honestly. Forget I am Christian, you are Hindu and he is Muslim; in any festival in India — Diwali, Holi, Eid, whatever festival — it’s a one-week kind of celebration,” O’Brien added.