Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday. (Source: PTI) 

Modi's Roadblock: Parliament's Worst Budget Gridlock Since 2000

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to maintain political momentum have hit a roadblock as parliament ended its worst budget session in at least 18 years amid signs the gridlock may continue for months.

In the first half of the budget session from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, the lower house of parliament worked 89 percent of its scheduled time. But its productivity decreased to 4 percent during the second half from March 5 to April 6, according to the New Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research think-tank.

The lower house, or Lok Sabha, spent just 1 percent of its productive time on legislative business, the think-tank found. One of the few pieces of legislation passed in this session was the budget for financial year beginning April 1. Parliament went into recess on Friday until July.

The parliament saw frequent adjournments as lawmakers shouted slogans, raised placards, and stormed the center of the twin houses over issues ranging from bank scams, a water dispute and the special category status for the state of Andhra Pradesh, to the alleged weakening of a law designed to protect under-privileged communities.

The gridlock lead to the failure of the passage of legislation, including a new law to deal with fugitive economic offenders as well as amendments to state banks acts. The pandemonium was so acute that the lower house could not take up an opposition-moved motion of no-confidence against the Modi government.

Jagdish Thakkar, a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

It comes after Modi faced a tough fight in his home state of Gujarat, suffered defeated in three key by-elections in March, witnessed protests by students, farmers and Dalits, who are among the lowest in India’s rigid social hierarchy.

The budget session washout indicates “a kind of paralysis that seems to have struck the government and a much bolder opposition which senses an opportunity for itself in 2019,” said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based author and political analyst. “These types of plays will continue till the general elections unless Modi really eats humble pie and reaches out to the opposition. And I don’t think that is Modi’s nature.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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