The stage is set for a confrontation between the government and the Opposition over rising fuel prices, the vaccination strategy and farm laws in the monsoon session of Parliament, which starts on Monday.
The government has said that it is ready to face any debate. The Opposition has planned an offensive on the first day over the hikes in fuel prices.
Government managers have suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi brief floor leaders on India’s covid management at an exclusive meeting, according to two people aware of the developments. Opposition parties, however, rejected the offer and insisted on a proper parliamentary debate on the subject, the two people, who were present at the meeting, said on condition of anonymity.
The monsoon session will be held against the backdrop of the second covid wave that saw an acute shortage of oxygen in large parts of the country. Both the treasury and the Opposition benches would look for opportunities to corner each other. The recent Assembly elections and the 2024 general election may also add to the underlining politics during the session.
Against this backdrop, Modi told the representatives of 31 political parties at an all-party meeting on Sunday that “there should be meaningful discussions in both the Houses” and it is “the responsibility of all to create such a conducive environment”.
“The PM said that according to our traditions of healthy democracy, issues concerning the people should be raised in an amicable manner, and the government should be given opportunity to respond to these discussions,” said parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi. “The PM said the people’s representatives know the ground situation and hence their participation in the discussions enriches the decision-making process.”
The minister has listed 29 bills and two financial legislations. He sought the cooperation for all and reiterated that all issues can be discussed in Parliament.
Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that more bills should be scrutinized and every week one short duration discussion and a calling attention motion must be allowed. The Congress leader also asked for an election for the post of deputy speaker, which has been lying vacant for more than two years now.
Kharge even took jibes at the prime minister, before he joined the meeting at its fag end, and said that Modi should not come when key parties have already spoken as it amounts to disrespect for those parties, according to the two leaders mentioned above.
Trinamool Congress leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien raised seven issues, including sidelining of states, discrepancy in vaccine distribution and the “motivated functioning of central agencies”.
However, the rise in fuel prices remained the top issue for most Opposition parties, who also sought a repeal of the controversial farm laws. The Trinamool Congress also asked for enactment of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam demanded a discussion on the devolution of the goods and services tax after many states claimed that the central government has not paid their dues.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi said that public sector undertakings should be turned profitable and should not be disinvested By the Centre.
In another all-party meeting, chaired by Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, several Opposition leaders asked for the reintroduction of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development funds, which was cancelled last year for two fiscals because of the pandemic.
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