On the eve of Parliament session, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government is ready to discuss any issue that members may raise and hoped the crucial Telangana bill would be passed even as the Opposition asked the ruling party not to give “sermons”.
“Of course, there is the vital issue of Telangana. We will be bringing the bill before Parliament,” Singh told reporters after an all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to ensure smooth functioning of the House.
“I sincerely hope that after a long debate spreading over many years, the House will in its wisdom will be able to transact the business and pass the bill,” he added.
Noting that there are many important legislations pending including anti-corruption measures, Women’s Reservation Bill and Communal Violence Bill, Singh said, “I sincerely hope that Parliament in its wisdom will transact the essential business which is the primary concern of any legislature in the Parliamentary democracy.”
He said there will be an opportunity for Parliament, even on the vote on account, to discuss the issues which are agitating the MPs.
However, soon after the meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj exchanged barbs signalling that the 12-day session which will conclude on February 21 will not be a smooth affair and Telangana could be an issue of trouble.
While Nath sought “genuine and not half hearted” support of opposition on Telangana and anti-corruption bills, Swaraj wondered Congress is playing the politics of both support and opposition on Telangana with its Chief Minister rejecting the bill which was sent by the Prime Minister.
However, Swaraj bluntly told Congress to put its house in order first, apparently referring to the disruptions mainly caused by its own pro-Telangana and anti-Telangana MPs from Andhra Pradesh.
“Congress should not give sermons to opposition on disruptions in Parliament when their party leaders are supporting as well as opposing Telangana,” Swaraj said, hitting back at Nath.
Nath earlier appealed to all political parties to provide “genuine support and not for the sake of support”. “It is a historic session and there is no scope for ifs and buts,” he added.
He regretted that the 15th Lok Sabha has witnessed highest number of disruptions since independence despite passing several landmark bills like the Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill.
As many as 39 bills have been listed in the session which is the continuation of the Winter session that ended last December.
Suggesting that BJP was practicing policy of “half support and half opposition” on anti-corruption measures as well as Telangana, Nath urged the opposition party to desist from it.
“This matter can not be put to rest by unrest as 17 members from Telangana will and 25 from Seemandhra will always be there. This matter must put to rest. No political parties should make use of an argument that the House is not going to function. This issue is not a party issue.
“This is an issue versus Seemandhra and Telangana…. Our whole efforts is there for Telangana bill. But this efforts should not only from Government’s side. The efforts should be from all parties. This issue will be settled only when everybody decides it togeter,” Nath said.
Swaraj said, “We have given them assurance of full support from our side but Congress party is giving full support and full oppositon as far as Telangana is concerned.”
She noted that the Congress government at the Centre had sent a bill with the Prime Minister’s approval to Andhra Pradesh and that was rejected by the Chief Minister of the same party.
“He (Nath) should not give sermons to others. Congress is speaking both in opposition as well as in support on the issue of Telangana. It believes in the policy of eating the cake and having it too (chit bhi meri, put bhi meri).”
Swaraj later said that her party has expressed keenness to raise some issues including the issue of misbehaviour with students from North Eastern states, the detention of Tamil fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy, demand for treating land piece of individual farmers as unit for compensation in case of crop loss and others.
JD (U) President Sharad Yadav said that all parties expressed their support for running Parliament.
“There was an agreement that important issues should be allowed to be raised in Zero Hour even if there are disruptions. We will raise them in Parliament even if there is ruckus,” he said.
There are various important issues like the issues of discrimination with North East people, farmers, quota in promotion, he added.
On Telangana, Yadav felt that there will be a “difficult” situation in Parliament.
“All of us want to run Parliament. If the government and the ruling party try to convince its MPs, we will also try to do it. Parliament should function. If Parliament does not function, the nation will also not function,” he said.
To a question on whether the Vote-on-Accout will be debated, the Prime Minister said, “Parliament is there to debate and approve. I sincerely hope that there will be opportunity for Parliament, even on the vote-on-account, to discuss the issues which are agitating the minds of the honourable members of parliament.”
A meeting of Congress leaders convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had yesterday seen the BJP as also the Left parties accusing it of not creating atmosphere conducive forthe passage of the bills, especially the Telangana bill.
Andhra Pradesh is sharply divided on regional line on the Telangana bill, set to be introduced in this session despite rejection by the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and MPs from Seemandhra, including those from Congress, have made clear their intent to oppose it tooth and nail.
Government sources said that NDA acting chairman L K Advani as also Swaraj told Finance Minister P Chidambaram to come with the Vote-on-Account at the earliest, expressing apprehensions over the smooth conduct of Parliament.