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3-week Winter Session likely from Dec 15

This also means that the session will cover the entire period of Christmas and New Year holidays

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dna Correspondent

Updated: Nov 23, 2017, 06:50 AM IST

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The Winter Session of Parliament could be a three-week affair to be convened between December 15 and January as Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs met Wednesday to finalise its schedule days after a political row that saw top leaders from the government and opposition trading barbs at each other.

This could fail to placate the Opposition which has been alleging that the government wants to "run away" rather than face the heat on key issues during the Gujarat elections, which end on December 14, a day before the session is likely to commence.

This also means that the session will cover the entire period of Christmas and New Year holidays.

This also the time during which a number of MPs go on leave, some even abroad.

Rahul Gandhi, who is set to become the Congress president this month is, however, expected to stay back in Delhi this year for the party's foundation day celebrations on December 28.

The session could have as many as 15 sittings, and it will technically start only on December 18, when the Gujarat and Himachal votes will be counted, as Parliament will adjourn on the first day to pay respect to sitting members who passed away since the last session in August.

Hours after the CCPA, which is headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, met to discuss the Parliament schedule, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is part of the key committee, said the Winter Session schedule would be such that it would not overlap with the assembly elections, and it would be a "regular" session.

Rahul had on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "hiding" from the truth and demanded that he "opened" Parliament as the Congress expressed its apprehension of a truncated Parliament session, accusing the government of undermining institutions, a charge strongly rebutted by the ruling dispensation.

In the backdrop of the Congress attack on the government for delaying the session on the pretext of Assembly polls in Gujarat, Jaitley said, "In democracy, when elections are on, political parties address the people directly and so the Parliament sessions are adjusted to ensure they do not overlap the elections. Therefore, we are going to ensure that a regular Winter Session is held, but elections and session dates don't overlap."

He also made a veiled jibe at the Congress, saying that while the BJP would be busy campaigning in Gujarat, since the polls in the state are important for the party, he was not sure whether its opponents would be busy with campaigning or not.

To a question regarding the customary address by the President at the first session of the year (as the Winter Session which begins in December will continue till January next year), Jaitley said if the session spilled over to January, it won't be considered a fresh session and that the President would have to address the first session of a calendar year.

The dates of the session could be announced once the President gives his assent to the two ordinances cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, as an ordinance cannot be issued after session dates have been announced.

Jaitley also argued there were a number of precedents when the sessions were advanced, delayed or split into two and, even, the budget rushed through to be passed by March end, when the Lok Sabha elections were on.

Only once, in 1990, did the Winter Session spilled over to the next calendar year, during the premiership of Chandra Shekhar; but it was not treated as a new session in the new year that is supposed to be a joint session addressed by the President as the start of the new year.

There are also three instances when the Winter Session overshot Christmas — the 10th Lok Sabha's eighth session, from Dec 2 to 30, 1993 (PM: P V Narasimha Rao); 9th Lok Sabha's sixth session, from Dec 22, 1990 to Jan 11 (PM: Chandra Shekhar); and Dec 22-29, 2011 (PM: Manmohan Singh).

In 1975, during the Emergency, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did not hold a Winter Session in November or December, but only in 1976, from January 5 to February 6.

Sources in the government said the Congress cannot dub the upcoming session "truncated" as there have been two occasions when the sessions were for smaller periods, of just 10 days — Dec 27, 1970, to January 11, 1991, and again in 2013, from Dec 5 to 18, during Dr Manmohan Singh's tenure.

In 2008, the Manmohan Singh government had split the Winter Session of Parliament into two parts in view of the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi. The first part was held from October 17 to 24 and the second part from December 10 to 23.

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