Budget session to begin amid chaos

Govt in a fix over murky chopper deal; BJP to raise Jaitleys phone tapping

The first few days of the Budget session beginning on Thursday may end up in a washout, with opposition parties, especially the BJP, likely to raise a storm over the controversial VVIP helicopter deal.

Besides the Rs 3,350 crore chopper deal, the government may find itself cornered over issues like phone tapping of BJP veteran Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s remark on Hindu terror, war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka, price rise, Afzal Guru’s hanging, the Telangana issue and communal riots in Uttar Pradesh.

In a bid to pre-empt the crisis, the government on Tuesday promised a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the chopper deal. “The government is neither afraid nor hesitant for discussion on any issue during the three-month-long Budget session of Parliament,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters. There was a need to reach a consensus on several issues as the parties were divided on the anti-rape ordinance, land acquisition bill, women’s reservation bill and food security bill, he said.

Nath junked the BJP allegations that Defence Minister A K Antony had misled Parliament on the chopper deal with AgustaWestland and that his style of functioning had resulted in the alleged scam. “Antony did not mislead Parliament. What does the BJP want Antony to do? Work as per their style? Thank goodness he does not work as per their style. God knows what would have happened had he worked as per their style,” he said.

Ready to face BJP

Nath also stood firmly behind Shinde. The BJP had threatened to boycott the home minister in Parliament unless he apologised for his “Hindu terror” remark. “I am not saying he will apologise or not apologise. Let the issue come before Parliament. Let there be discussion. Let us see.” Nath claimed that none of the parties have spoken to him regarding boycotting Shinde. The BJP had earlier boycotted Finance Minister P Chidambaram over his alleged role in the telecom scam. However, the courts cleared him of the charges.

“Our effort will be to find convergence. We have a lot of business in hand and there is time constraint. We hope to do substantial business in the session,” Nath said, noting that the government has listed around 71 bills to be introduced and passed in this session.

The Union Budget will be presented on February 28. The economic survey will be tabled on February 27 and the railway budget on February 26.

The schedule

- Budget session starts: February 21 with President's address to joint session
- Railway Budget: February 26 (12 noon)
- Economic Survey to be tabled: February 27
- Union Budget: Feb 28 (11 am)
- Parliament will adjourn for recess: March 22
- House resume:  April 22
- Session ends: May 10

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