- First Lok Sabha session of PM Modi's second term passes 30 bills
- Opposition has accused BJP of "steamrolling" key pieces of legislation
- Derek O'Brien asked if parliament was delivering pizzas or passing laws
With 30 bills passed already and three working days still left, the government has claimed that this session of the 17th Lok Sabha, the first since the results of the national election were announced in May, has been the most successful since 1952, in which 27 bills were passed in 64 days.
"People must know parliament is functioning and work is taking place. We have to restore the confidence of the people who have great expectations from us," Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla told NDTV, adding that he wants parliament's work to speak for itself.
A two-time Lok Sabha lawmaker, Om Birla reportedly comes to parliament at 9.30 am and leaves an hour after it adjourns. He also meets secretaries of ministries whose bills are being considered and questions them on various aspects of the legislation.
"We haven't see such an active speaker who is so hands on and pushing through legislation like this in the recent past," a senior minister in the Modi government told NDTV.
PM Modi has made no secret of the fact that he wants his lawmakers to be disciplined and punctual, particularly when dealing with parliamentary affairs.
Last month he criticised union ministers for skipping roster duty while parliament was in session. In June, on the first working day of the current parliament session, he asked his lawmakers to forget about the opposition and "work in the larger interest of the nation".
"When we come to parliament, we should forget about paksh and vipaksh (government and opposition). We should think about issues with a nishpaksh (impartial) spirit and work in the larger interest of the nation," he said.
However, the opposition has a different view of the matter and has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP of steamrolling key pieces of legislation, such as amendments to the RTI and UAPA Acts, past them, courtesy its majority in the Lok Sabha and allies in the Rajya Sabha.
They have also pointed out that the government has consistently turned down demands that proposed pieces of legislation be studied by standing or select committees.
Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O'Brien has been one of the more vocal critics in this regard.
After the contentious bill to ban 'triple talaq' sailed through opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha, Mr O'Brien posted a chart on Twitter showing that only five per cent of bills passed by parliament had been sent for scrutiny, and demanded to know if the government thought it was "delivering pizzas".
The Trinamool leader was similarly critical during the passage of the RTI Bill last month.
"Three Bills listed for passing today in Rajya Sabha. All with ZERO scrutiny. And the govt expects us to be what ? Mute spectators! Constructive Opposition (in) Parliament," he tweeted.
Last week, a letter signed by 17 opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, the BSP and the Telugu Desam Party, expressed anguish over the "hurried" passage of bills with little or no scrutiny.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 352 seats in the Lok Sabha, while the Congress and its allies have just 91. Although the NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha yet, with just 99 members, the coalition is likely to secure that by 2021.
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