Seeking co-operation of all parties for making the Winter Session of Parliament constructive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked them to rise above partisan politics and work out a consensus over simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies. He made this suggestion at a meeting of representatives of various parties at the customary session-eve meeting at Parliament House.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters that the PM felt that joint polls for Lok Sabha and Assemblies would boost development. Modi has mooted the idea on several occasions, arguing that continuing cycle of polls obstructs government work due to enforcement of model code of conduct and deployment of officials on election duty.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Modi regime was not interested in running the government and Parliament. He said the government was in a permanent campaign mode and it would be better if it converted itself into a “national campaign committee”.
Azad and the Congress’s leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge flagged Modi’s claim during his rallies in Gujarat that former PM Manmohan Singh and other party leaders connived with Pakistan to influence the Assembly polls. Sources in the Congress indicated that Rajya Sabha was likely to be disrupted on the issue on the first day of the session on Friday. Congress’s Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said, “Either the government prove the claim or the PM apologise. Nothing short of an apology will satisfy us.”
A source in the party said: “The PM’s comments have created a lot of concern. The Congress will talk about those concerns tomorrow. It cannot be business as usual.”
Lok Sabha, keeping with convention, would be adjourned Friday after tributes to MPs Sultan Ahmed (Trinamool Congress), Chand Nath (BJP) and Mohammed Taslimuddin (RJD), who died during the inter-session period.
The tone of the session, it is expected, will be set by the results to the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which would be declared on Monday.
The Trinamool Congress, which was represented by its leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Lok Sabha) and Derek O’Brien (Rajya Sabha), articulated its concerns on several issues, including Aadhaar, slowdown of economy and lack of jobs. Bandyopadhyay also registered Trinamool’s concerns about implemenation of the GST and fallout of demonetisation.
Ahead of the all-party meeting, leaders of Congress and other opposition parties met in Azad’s chamber to devise a common strategy for the session. Those present included Congress leaders Kharge, Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia, O’Brien, CPI’s D Raja, SP’s Naresh Agrawal, JMM’s Sanjeev Kumar, DMK’s T K S Elangovan, NC’s Farooq Abdullah, NCP’s Tariq Anwar and RJD’s Jai Prakash Narain Yadav. Since members of many parties were yet to reach Delhi, another meeting was likely on Monday.
Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said in an interview to Rajya Sabha TV: “I am of the opinion that the Opposition must have its say. They must express their point of view and the government must be patient enough to hear their point of view and respond also”. However, he maintained that “at the end of the day, the government must have its way”. He urged the government and Opposition to ensure that the Houses ran peacefully and debates were held in a dignified manner. He said people felt dejected when Parliament failed to function.
The government is expected to table 25 pending and 14 new Bills during the session, including the significant legislation on instant triple talaq.
On the table in Winter Session
The 14 new Bills lined up for being moved or moved for consideration and passing in Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session:
* The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017
* The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (to replace an Ordinance)
* The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (to replace an Ordinance)
* The Consumer Protection Bill, 2017
* The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes and Protection of Interest of Depositors Interest Bill, 2017
* The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2017
* The Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2017
* The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017
* The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017
* The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2017
* The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017
* The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Third Amendment Bill, 2017
* The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill 2017
* The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017