Setting the stage for a bitter showdown and a possible washout of the monsoon session of Parliament starting Tuesday, the government and the main opposition Congress dug their heels in over the controversies surrounding BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Two all-party meetings, one convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and the other by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, ended in a deadlock Monday, with the government and the Congress sticking to their positions, especially on the rows over Lalit Modi and the Vyapam scam.
Speaking at the all-party meeting called by Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a collective effort was required to find solutions to issues like the land acquisition bill and facilitate effective functioning of the Parliament.
“Let every issue be discussed in Parliament under the rules.
Efforts should be towards effective functioning of Parliament. During the last session, it was decided that some issues would be addressed during the next session. Of all the fora available for expression of one’s views, Parliament is the best. Let there be good debates and suggestions. Like Ramgopalji (Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party) said, we need to find solutions collectively. Yes, the government has more responsibility in facilitating functioning of Parliament, but so do all of you,” he told the meeting.
The Congress, however, was in no mood to relent. The party said it will not allow Parliament to function unless External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan step down.
Sources said Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the resignations were necessary for smooth functioning of Parliament.
But Venkaiah Naidu maintained there would be no resignation: “There is no question of accepting any ultimatum from anybody. From where did the question of resignation arise? Nobody can dictate terms to the government. No Union Minister has done anything illegal or immoral.”
Azad described the government as “thick-skinned” for rejecting the Congress demand. Contrasting the attitude with that of the earlier Congress-led UPA government, he cited how the then Railways Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, and then Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan, had resigned after allegations were levelled against them.
The Congress also targeted Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani over her education qualification, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh for what it called the rice scam in the state, Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde over “chikki” purchases and FTII chief Gajendra Chauhan which has sparked an agitation there.
Referring to fears that the session could be a washout, Venkaiah Naidu said he hoped this would not happen. “The government has no problem discussing any issue, any time. There is no substitute to a healthy debate in parliamentary democracy. However, it needs serious consideration if matters related to states are to be taken up in Parliament.”
The government plans to respond to the Congress demand for a discussion on the Vyapam scam and Vasundhara Raje with a call for discussion on allegations against Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the Kerala solar scam, the Uttarakhand relief-work scam and allegations of bribery against two former Goa ministers.
Venkaiah Naidu told reporters that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was keen on making a statement to charges against her in the Lalit Modi controversy.
The concerns of regional parties were not exactly the same as those of the Congress. Bhartruhari Mahatab of the BJD said Vyapam was a case of degeneration of the system and it needed to be discussed. He wanted Parliament to function normally.
Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa of the Akali Dal said there was need to discuss issues raised by Azad, but wondered how this was possible if Parliament was not allowed to function.
Ramgopal Yadav of the SP also wanted Parliament to function smoothly and recalled that both Houses sat for extra hours in previous sessions to make up for the time lost due to disruptions. Referring to the land bill, he said that both the government and the opposition should collectively endeavour adopting a give-and-take approach to find a solution.
Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena was concerned about developments on the Indo-Pak border and said the nation would not forgive those who do not allow a discussion on it.
Sitaram Yechury of the CPM asked the government to make its stand clear on issues and said failing this, the opposition would have to use its options.