The government Sunday accused the Opposition of trying to “belittle the image” of Parliament by insisting that “non-issues” such as the updated list of unparliamentary words be taken up for discussion, setting the stage for a stormy Monsoon Session that is set to begin on Monday.
At an all party-meeting ahead of the session, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Opposition leaders demanded that the alleged misuse of investigation agencies, the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the defence forces, price rise, alleged attacks on the federal structure and the “Chinese incursion”, be taken up for discussion.
With the session scheduled to end on August 12 — during which 32 Bills are likely to be introduced — the Opposition said it anticipates that key Bills would be “bulldozed” through. Congress MP and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said that with the session “leaving us effectively with only 14 days”, the government did not offer them clear answers on how it plans to discuss the proposed legislation in such a short time.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi later told reporters that while the government was ready to “discuss any issue” under the rules and procedure of the House, the Opposition “is raising non-issues as it does not have anything against the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has wide acceptance among the people of India and abroad”.
PM Modi’s absence in the meeting also drew criticism from the Opposition camp, with Congress general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh tweeting, “Isn’t this ‘unparliamentary’?”
All Party Meeting to discuss forthcoming session of Parliament has just begun and the Prime Minister as usual is absent. Isn’t this ‘unparliamentary’?
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 17, 2022
“Because of some reason, the PM did not come. In fact, before 2014, the PM never used to attend these meetings. A senior Cabinet member like Rajnath Singh presided over the meeting, unlike the Congress, which used to send the chief whip to take the meeting during its rule. How many times did (former prime minister) Manmohan Singh attend all-party meetings?” Joshi said.
At the meeting, attended by 36 parties, the Congress made it clear that it plans to raise issues such as the “DHFL bank fraud, rising unemployment, fiscal and rupee value crisis, hate speech, rising crimes in Jammu and Kashmir and attacks on Kashmiri Pandits, the collapse of autonomous bodies and constitutional institutions, and illegal demolition of homes of minorities”.
Many parties also raised the issue of the new forest conservation rules, pointing out that it “dilutes” the rights of tribals. “Today in the all-party meeting, many political parties, including those supporting NDA, pointed out the contradiction in the Modi Sarkar claiming credit for its Presidential candidate on the one hand and killing off the Forest Rights Act, 2006, on the other hand!” Ramesh tweeted.
Among other parties, the Trinamool Congress said it will firmly oppose the updated list of unparliamentary words, the circular banning protests and dharnas on Parliament premises, apart from “the anti-people policies and schemes such as Agnipath”, inflation, and matters of foreign policy.
AAP MP Sanjay Singh said he raised the issue of “CBI and ED’s misuse”. “I said if the government can jail a person like Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain, the architect of projects like mohalla clinics, and intimidate the Opposition, then it is not sending out a good message to the country. We are not going to sit quietly. They are not letting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal travel to Singapore to attend a summit of global leaders. The government did not have any answers,” Singh said.
The DMK and AIADMK also raised the Sri Lankan crisis. The government will on Tuesday hold another all-party meeting on Sri Lanka.
Apart from Kharge, Ramesh and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK’s T R Baalu and Tiruchi Siva, TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, BJD MP Pinaki Misra, YSRCP’s Vijaya Sai Reddy, TRS’s Keshava Rao, and Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut were among those present in the meeting.
The government, meanwhile, suggested that it was not likely to give in to the Opposition’s demands to discuss the issue of “unparliamentary words”, reiterating Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s statement that the compilation of the words and phrases is merely an updation of practice being carried out since 1954.
The circular on dharnas and protests is also issued routinely ahead of any session, Joshi said.
“They do not have any major issue against the government because the government is functioning extremely well, people have accepted the leadership of Narendra Modi. Even foreign delegates and the diaspora have recognised his leadership. That’s why these kinds of non-issues are being raised and they are trying to portray that in India even in Parliament they are not allowed to speak. They are trying to belittle the image of Parliament. I condemn the attitude of the opposition parties,” Joshi said.