Monsoon session begins today, likely to be stormy.
The monsoon session, it seems, is not going to be an easy ride for the Modi government as opposition would be seeking accountability on several issues including Centre’s role in removing elected governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Kashmir violence, communal tension in Kairana, price rise, agrarian distress and inept handling of foreign policy including embarrassment over nuclear suppliers group (NSG).
At an all-party meeting called by new parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar on the eve of the session on Sunday, the Prime Minister reached out to the opposition parties urging them to keep national interests above any other considerations, while the latter ticked off the government for not taking them into confidence.
While the Prime Minister could take solace in seeing increasing possibility of Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill getting cleared because of Congress’ diminished strength in the Rajya Sabha, Congress indicated that it would not give in without some fight. Apart from GST bill, the government has listed around a dozen bills for passage during this session.
Making an appeal for the passage of GST bill in the meet, attended by 45 leaders from 30 parties and senior cabinet ministers Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, Modi said, “The issue is not which government gets credit. Important bills, including GST will be taken up in the monsoon session and I hope for meaningful discussions and outcomes.”
In an effort to break the jinx in the parliament, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan also had a meeting followed by dinner with members of opposition parties in which she asked them to sort thorny issues through a healthy discussion.
Playing down the talks between his party and the government to break the deadlock over GST bill, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said, “We can give a response only after we receive a written draft from the government.”
However, Scindia rejected charges that his party was blocking the bill, adding GST was a “baby given birth” by his party.
Getting its governments reinstalled first in Uttarakhand and now in Arunachal Pradesh, a rejuvenated Congress is trying to muster support of other opposition parties on contentious issues to corner the Central government before UP elections that are due next year. At the same time, Congress does not want to give a negative message of trying to block every other legislation.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal accused the BJP and Congress of indulging in “match-fixing” on the GST issue, and asked the government to follow the parliamentary spirit of AB Vajpayee dispensation and consult all parties. Jaitley on Friday had met Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma in Azad’s office inside the Parliament to discuss the bill.
Taking a snipe at the PM over his call for cooperative federalism at the Inter-State Council meeting, Azad accused the government of using its “power” to engineer “defections” to topple Congress governments in two states and how the Supreme Court nullified it.
Speaking about the “abuse” of governor’s post, Azad referred to UP governor Ram Naik’s reported justification of arms training given to Bajrang Dal cadre.
“If government starts giving training to such organisations, then you can understand… where terrorism originates,” Azad said.
At the meeting, several opposition leaders highlighted the situation in Kashmir and how communication, including media has been shut and inept handling costing lives in police action.
Playing down differences with the opposition, Ananth Kumar said, “The meeting was very fruitful. All the parties desired smooth functioning of Parliament and assured of their cooperation. Congress too assured support to legislative proposals based on merits.”
The government has lined up 16 bills for passage in the session and would discuss growing incidents of terror attacks in different parts of the world and their implications on the country, foreign policy, floods in states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, said Kumar.