Budget Session to begin on Feb 23: No movement on GST Bill

The Budget Session of Parliament will begin on February 23, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the Union Budget on February 29. The session will be held in two parts with a recess of over a month, and will end on May 13. This means that the much-anticipated reshuffle of the Narendra Modi Council of Ministers is now not expected to happen before mid-May. The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh finalized the schedule of the session on Thursday morning after consulting leaders of political parties. The parties will be busy contesting elections that have to be held in five States by mid-April. The session will break for a recess on March 16 and will resume on April 25, which gives the Election Commission 40 days to conduct the elections in the five states of Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Pondicherry. Thursday's meeting was seen as an attempt to make peace with opposition parties that opposed a proposal for a shorter Budget session this year without a recess to facilitate the election process. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said, "We didn't want any reduction in the sittings of the Houses or a session without a recess. The absence of a recess hurts the standing committee system. The government accepted the demands of the opposition." Apart from CPM's Sitaram Yechury, leaders of the AIADMK, DMK, Trinamool Congress and Janata Dal United attended the meeting. This session is crucial for the government. Apart from the budget, it will focus on the Goods and Services Tax bill. The government had planned to roll out GST from April this year after passing it by Parliament last year, but the bill was stalled by the Opposition. The budget session will begin with an address by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 23. The rail budget will be presented on February 25 and the Economic Survey, a day later.

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