A new session of Parliament is set to begin from Monday amid an intense buzz on whether the government will have some surprise item up its sleeve during the five-day sitting that will see a discussion on Parliament’s 75-year journey and take up for consideration four bills, including one on appointment of election commissioners. With Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar hoisting the national flag at the new Parliament building on Sunday morning, the development is being seen as a precursor to Parliament shifting to its new home during the session.
The government is holding an all-party meeting later in the day to brief floor leaders of different parties and hear their views ahead of the session.
The unusual timing of the session has left everyone wondering, even though the main standout feature on the listed agenda is a special discussion on Parliament’s journey of 75 years starting from the “Samvidhan Sabha” (Constituent Assembly).
The government enjoys the prerogative of tabling in Parliament some new legislation or other items that might not have been part of the listed agenda.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had recently given vent to the sense in the opposition about the session, saying the government could be having some “legislative grenades” up its sleeve.
Commenting on the listed agenda, he had said it “is much ado about nothing” and all this could have waited till the Winter session in November.
The government has also listed the bill on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners to be taken up for consideration and passage during the session.
The bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha during the last Monsoon session and has drawn protests from the opposition as it seeks to put service conditions of the chief election commissioner and two election commissioners on par with the cabinet secretary and not a Supreme Court judge, as is the case now.
This is being seen as a downgrade in their stature.
Though there is no official word on any probable new legislation, there has been a view, including in the BJP circles, that a bill to ensure quota for women in elected legislatures like Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
That Prime Minster Narendra Modi has often highlighted, including in the recent G20 Summit, the growing role of women in different fields in the country has added to the buzz about such a bill.
What has added to the anticipation around the session is Parliament’s expected shift to the new building which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on May 28.
Various departments of parliamentary staff are all set to don new uniforms in a signal from the government that the shift to the new building is likely to be marked with a fresh start in more ways than one.
The successful G20 Summit in the national capital under India’s presidency has added to Modi’s appeal and is set to be a major talking point of the treasury benches during the session.
The new dress code with floral motif for a section of staff has already kicked up a political row, with the Congress dubbing it as a “cheap” tactic to promote the ruling party’s poll symbol – the lotus flower.
While announcing the session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had described it as “special session”. But the government had later made it clear that it was a regular session, 13th session of the present Lok Sabha and 261st session of Rajya Sabha.
Usually, Budget, Monsoon and Winter sessions of Parliament are held every year.
The Monsoon session was held in July-August while the Winter session is due in November-December.
The Budget session has a fixed time of commencement from January end of every year.
The gap between the two sessions cannot be more than six months.
As of now, the government has listed a special discussion on Parliament’s journey of 75 years starting from the Samvidhan Sabha on the first day of the session.
Besides the discussion on “Parliamentary Journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings'” scheduled for September 18, the other listed business for Lok Sabha includes ‘The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023’ and ‘The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023’, already passed by Rajya Sabha on 3 August 2023.
Besides, ‘The Post Office Bill, 2023’ has also been listed in the Lok Sabha business, according to an official bulletin. The bill was earlier introduced in Rajya Sabha on 10 August 2023.
The list of business is tentative and more items can be added.
On August 31, Joshi, while announcing the “special session” of Parliament for five days from September 18, did not spell out any specific agenda for it. “Amid Amrit Kaal, looking forward to having fruitful discussions and debate in Parliament,” Joshi had posted on X.