NEW DELHI: The first Lok Sabha session under newly elected Speaker Om Birla has witnessed outstanding productivity, in sharp contrast to the disruption and protests which had marred proceedings before.
The budget session of the 17th Lok Sabha, which lasted nearly one-and-a-half months and witnessed 37 sittings and 280 hours of work, has passed 35 bills.
Birla, who took over as the Speaker on 19 June, has been appreciated by members of both the treasury and Opposition benches for accommodating members of all political parties, particularly first-time MPs.
Consequently, the session also did not see any deadlock over legislative business and, at no point, was the House adjourned over disruptions or protests.
“He is very accommodative and gives maximum opportunity to Opposition members. He keeps equal distance from both ruling and Opposition parties. He has encouraged first-time members to speak in the House, particularly during Question Hour," Kodikunnil Suresh, Congress’ chief whip in Lok Sabha, said.
Suresh, a seven-time Lok Sabha member, said that Birla is different from earlier speakers because his “utmost focus" was on ensuring productive business without any disruption. “He keeps good relations with Opposition members and often calls floor leaders to his chambers for discussion," he added.
He said the Congress party’s key complaints about the Union government were over setting legislative business without detailed discussions, putting out new bills without giving enough time to prepare for debate, and not holding discussions under rule 193 of Parliament’s rules of procedure and conduct of business.
Congress leaders have raised these issues multiple times on the floor of the House during the session and Birla had ensured that their complaints would be addressed in the next session of Parliament.
“The handling of first-time MPs and the opportunity given to them by the speaker to put forth their views in the House was the good part in this session. All members got an opportunity to speak in the Lok Sabha," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Meenakshi Lekhi, also a pro-tem speaker.
“This Lok Sabha has the highest number of first-time MPs, so it was important that they got an opportunity to speak. The first impression of the functioning of Lok Sabha is important for the first-time MPs, and Birla handled the situation effectively," she added.
While making his concluding remarks before the session was adjourned on 6 August evening, Birla said out of the 265 first-time MPs, almost all got a chance to speak during the session. 229 out of 265 first-time lawmakers and 42 out of 46 first-time women lawmakers spoke during Question Hour.
On the question of high performance of Lok Sabha, Lekhi said: “The mammoth mandate of the people given to BJP-led NDA under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a great opportunity and responsibility. People want us to pursue their legislative agenda in Parliament. The passage of triple talaq bill and abrogation of Article 370 was a crucial moment in the first session. Although difference of opinion was visible, the Parliament continued to function without any disruption."
The Union government was able to get parliamentary nod for two contentious legislations—The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, or the bill to ban instant triple talaq among Muslims, as well as the passage of a resolution on abrogation of Article 370, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“He spends a lot of time on the Chair, giving several hours of time to his work. He was around on all days when session went on till midnight, arranged for basic facilities for the staff and is known to work in his office even after the day’s work gets over, clearing files and meeting officials," an official in the Lok Sabha secretariat said, requesting anonymity.