Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sparred over the delay in the Winter Session of Parliament. Gandhi, who after holding office for 19 years delivered her last speech to the party’s highest decision making Congress Working Committee, accused the Modi government of escaping its constitutional accountability ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections “by locking the Parliament”.
Her comments drew sharp reactions from Jaitley, who rebutted her charges, saying the “winter session will definitely take place and the government will announce dates soon.”
Gandhi said the government took the extraordinary step of not holding the winter session to escape answering questions on corruption in high places, conflict of interest of serving ministers and dubious defence deals.
“The Prime Minister had the audacity to have a midnight celebration in Parliament to launch an ill prepared and flawed GST but today he lacks the courage to face Parliament,” she said.
“The Modi government in its arrogance has cast a dark shadow on India’s parliamentary democracy by sabotaging the winter session of parliament on flimsy grounds,” she said. She added that Modi government is mistaken if it thinks that by locking the temple of democracy, it will escape constitutional accountability ahead of the assembly elections.
Jaitley said there was no truth that the government was dropping the Winter Session. There are speculations that a truncated session will start from December 11. “Changing the schedule of Parliament session during elections is nothing new. The congress has also done it before,” he said.
The winter session of Parliament traditionally convenes from the third week of November and lasts till the third week of December. Jaitley said the opposition party had also delayed a session in 2011 and even earlier because the sittings coincided with election campaigns.
Because the Prime Minister and other top ministers are campaigning for the Gujarat elections in December, the year-end session of Parliament has yet to be called. According to law, Parliament cannot go without meeting for longer than six months. Since the last Monsoon Session of Parliament technically ended in August, the government need not organise another session till February. At the CWC meeting, party leaders in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma raised the issue of government’s repeated attempts to “denigrate” institutions.
Gandhi also referred to the distress caused to millions due to unemployment, rising inflation, GST and demonetisation, saying “fortunes of a handful are being built by destroying the future of the poor and the oppressed and yet the Prime Minister continues with greater vigor, to make announcements, false promises, and to quote facts and figures that have nothing to do with the reality on the grounds.” She also accused the government of forcefully changing the history of modern India by systematically erasing contribution made by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi through their blatant vilification by rewriting textbooks and malicious propaganda.
Jaitley said the Congress has given the most corrupt government in its 10 years of rule, while Narendra Modi has given the most honest government. “By forcibly saying that a truth is a lie does not make it a lie,” he said.