Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will make a statement in Rajya Sabha on Thursday on the military standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, and will take a couple of questions from Opposition MPs, it is learnt. The partial breakthrough came at a meeting convened by Singh on Wednesday with top Opposition leaders: Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh (all Congress), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and Ram Gopal Yadav (SP).
Opposition members had slammed the government on Tuesday after they were not allowed to ask questions following Singh’s statement in Lok Sabha.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the government is learnt to have agreed to the Opposition’s demand to hold discussions in the Upper House on issues such as payment of GST compensation to states, the National Education Policy and the slump in economic growth and joblessness. But the stalemate over passage of four Bills, including the three contentious farm-related ones that will replace ordinances, continued. Opposition parties remained firm on their position that these Bills require scrutiny by Parliamentary panels.
Sources in Opposition said the Defence Minister was accommodating at the informal meeting, which was also attended by Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Pralhad Joshi and V Muraleedharan. Gehlot is Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha.
Opposition-ruled states have been at loggerheads with the Centre for asking them to borrow in order to bridge the GST compensation deficit. Chief ministers of West Bengal, Kerala, Delhi, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu have written to the Centre, opposing the options which require states to borrow to meet shortfall and have instead asked the Centre to borrow.
Sources said a calling attention notice given by O’Brien on the situation arising out of non-payment of GST compensation to states has been admitted and a discussion would take place based on the notice.
Discuss some issues, stalemate over 4 Bills
The Congress appeared isolated on its demand for a discussion on the Chinese aggression in Parliament. Sensing that the Congress does not have the support of fellow opposition parties on this, the government side deftly agreed to have discussions on other issues raised by the opposition parties. So, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will make a statement on China on Thursday but will only take one or two questions. However, it is to be seen how the government manages to break the impasse on the four Bills.
Similarly, Jairam Ramesh is likely to give a calling attention notice on the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification. The government, sources said, agreed to allow a discussion on the issue.
The government also accepted Tiruchi Siva’s demand for a discussion on the National Education Policy. A discussion on economy and jobs, suggested by Azad, Sharma and Ramesh and backed by all opposition parties, has also been agreed to, it is learnt.
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But sources said Opposition leaders remained firm on their demand that Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill should be referred to House committees. Sources said the government did not give any assurance on this.
O’Brien is learnt to have said that while the government is talking about “shortage of time”, it has “already robbed 27 hours — one hour of Question Hour and half-an-hour of Zero Hour every day for 18 days”. He is learnt to have also said that the government’s track record on ordinances is the “worst since 1952.”
Yadav, sources said, told the government side that the Opposition will not at any cost allow passage of the farm ordinances.
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