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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Government cold to Opposition demand for discussion on farmers’ stir

Sources in the Opposition said that the signal from the government was that a focussed discussion on the farmers’ agitation was unlikely to take place in the first half of the Budget session.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: February 1, 2021 11:43:30 am
Government cold to Opposition demand for discussion on farmers’ stirVenkaiah Naidu chairing the all-party meet in Rajya Sabha Sunday. (PTI)

The government on Sunday remained non-committal on a demand by the Opposition for a separate discussion in Parliament on the crisis triggered by the farm laws.

Sources in the Opposition said that the signal from the government was that a focussed discussion on the farmers’ agitation was unlikely to take place in the first half of the Budget session.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday chaired a meeting of floor leaders of the Upper House. His view, the sources said, was that the farmers’ issue can be taken up as part of the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s Address, for which the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) has allocated 10 hours.

Another 10 hours have been allotted for the discussion on the Union Budget, which will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday.

The debate on the motion of thanks, which will begin on Wednesday, is now set to turn into a war of words, and a show of strength between the Treasury and Opposition benches. Opposition sources said many members were preparing to move amendments to the President’s Address, which made several references to the farm laws that have triggered the unprecedented protest by farmer unions.

Over the past six years of the Narendra Modi government, the Opposition has managed twice to pass amendments to the President’s Address. But numbers in the Upper House are now in favour of the ruling NDA.

At the meeting chaired by Naidu, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress Deputy Leader Anand Sharma, besides Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, CPM’s Elamaram Kareem, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh demanded a separate discussion on the farmers’ issue.

The government side was represented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi. Leader of the House Thawarchand Gehlot, and senior ministers Sitharaman, S Jaishankar, and Piyush Goyal too, were present.

Some non-NDA parties like the TRS did not demand a discussion. TRS leader K Keshava Rao told The Indian Express that issues like the farmers’ agitation can be discussed in the debate on the President’s Address.

Sources said the government side informed the meeting that it wants to take up government business (Bills) on Tuesday. Sources in the Opposition said they will give notices under Rule 267 for suspension of all business to discuss the farmers’ agitation on that day, signalling that the first working day of the Upper House could be stormy. The Opposition could stage a walkout, sources said.

Opposition leaders said they would participate in the motion of thanks debate and raise the issue of the farmers’ agitation. President Ram Nath Kovind had in his Address to the joint sitting of Parliament – which the Opposition boycotted – underlined that the government was making continuous efforts to dispel misunderstanding over the farm laws. He had also referred to the storming of the Red Fort and vandalism on Republic Day.

“We said that we propose to raise the farmers’ issue. It will get raised,” Sharma told The Indian Express. “We are not going to wait for the second half of Parliament (which begins on March 8). This issue is of extreme urgency. The manner in which they passed it, in brazen violation of all rules, procedures and precedents, without any consultations, bypassing Parliamentary scrutiny… They should be willing now to discuss,” he said.

“We had advised them not to pass these laws in a hurry. We were very clear that it would lead to complications. There is a big question mark on the very constitutional validity of these laws since they trespass into the domain of the states,” he added.

CPM’s Kareem said the Opposition will raise the farmers’ issue during the debate on the motion of thanks.

The Budget session will be in two parts. Parliament will go into recess on February 15. It will reconvene on March 8, and the session will conclude on April 8.

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