Speculation over delay of Winter Session could impact tabling of 15th FC report

The speculation over delay of winter session this time could impact tabling of the 15th finance commission report which is scheduled to be tabled before Parliament and help state governments understand their share in the devolution of central funds for the next five years.

According to the people aware of the development, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is still considering if the winter session could be held with the growing cases of in the national capital and a final decision about the winter session would be taken by the meeting of the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA).

“The bigger problem is that the 15th finance commission report is scheduled to be tabled in the Parliament. The report has already been given to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman but till the time it does not get tabled in the Parliament, state government would not know about the devolution of funds to them and to different central ministries,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, senior parliamentarian and leader of Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

The possibility of cancellation of winter session could also allow opposition parties to corner the union government. Opposition parties are keen that there should be a detailed discussion on the situation in the country and also provide a detailed roadmap about the adult vaccination programme that would need to be undertaken by the union government along with state governments.

“A delay in the tabling of the 15th finance commission also means that state governments would not be able to plan for their budget session as state governments would not know about their share in the central funds. The state governments would also be able to plan what is their share of funds which they get from different central ministries for various programmes in the states,” added Mahtab.

People aware of developments said that there is a possibility of a truncated winter session but the final decision would be taken by the union government in consultation with Speaker and Chairman.

“These are only speculations. The final decision about winter session of the Parliament will be taken by the CCPA. The decision will be conveyed to all stakeholders,” said a senior union cabinet minister on the condition of anonymity.

Most of the opposition parties are of the view that there should be winter session even if it is a truncated winter so that there can be discussion over crucial issues. “The tabling of 15th finance commission report cannot wait. There should be a truncated winter session if the concerned authorities are finding it difficult to organise a month-long session. The report cannot wait till January end or February so that the union government can have a longer Budget session,” said another person in the know of development.

Uncertainty over the winter session of Parliament, which usually begins in late November, continues as the national capital has seen a spike in covid-19 developments. As of Sunday, Delhi alone recorded 6,746 confirmed cases and 121 deaths in a day. Earlier in the year too, both budget session and monsoon sessions of the Parliament have been affected by the pandemic and were forced to cut short.

“Holding the winter session as per its original schedule looks unlikely at this stage. Delhi has seen high number of cases and even for parliamentary committee meetings, attendance is very low. One of the possibilities is a session beginning in January end which could be clubbed with Budget session but there is no clarity as of now,” a senior Parliament official said requesting anonymity. The person added that during the monsoon session several lawmakers as well as Parliament officials had tested positive – something which continues to be a cause of concern for holding a session at this stage.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, when asked about the issue on Saturday, had said that the secretariat was prepared to hold the session but the dates are decided by the union government. “The Lok Sabha secretariat is prepared to hold the parliament session. As far as dates are concerned, it is decided by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs,” Birla told reporters on Saturday.

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