The three-week-long Winter Session of Parliament will begin Wednesday and the first week is expected to be a heated one since the outcome of the municipal corporation elections in Delhi and the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls will be out on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The Opposition has identified a raft of issues including the alleged misuse of investigation agencies to corner the government which has lined up 16 new Bills for consideration and passage.
On the legislative agenda of the government would be 25 Bills – 16 of them new, seven pending ones and two finance Bills.
Senior ministers led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met floor leaders of various political parties Tuesday and sought their cooperation for smooth functioning of the House. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not attend the all-party meeting.
Opposition leaders told the government that it must allow the voice of the Opposition parties to be heard in Parliament. Some of the leaders told Singh, Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal that the customary pre-session all-party meetings have become ornamental in nature with the government not walking the talk on the assurances on allowing discussions.
Sources said the all-party meeting saw several parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, AAP and NCP demanding discussions on what they called misuse of investigation agencies like the CBI and the ED.
The Congress, represented by its Lok Sabha leader Adhir Rajnan Chowdhury and chief whip in Rajya Sabha Syed Naseer Hussain, sought discussions on a range of issues but the party will primarily focus on three issues – the Chinese incursions at the border, price rise and unemployment, and the attack on independent institutions.
The Congress is keen to force the government to hold a discussion on the “collapse of autonomous bodies” to talk about issues like the government’s conflict with higher judiciary, the refusal to accept Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendations, the row over the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner in the wake of the Supreme Court questioning the haste with which Election Commissioner Arun Goel was appointed.
Hussain said the Congress has demanded discussions on the appointment of Election Commissioner in just one day and also on the quota for the Economically Weaker Section in the wake of the Supreme Court judgement.
The Trinamool Congress demanded discussions on price rise and unemployment , and on issues related to federal structure, “economic blockade of states”, “attempts to destabilise elected state governments” like West Bengal and misuse of investigation agencies for “political vendetta against Opposition parties.” TMC floor leader Derek O’Brien said the government should allow at least one short duration discussion and one Calling Attention notice every week.
The session, which begins Wednesday, will have 17 sittings over 23 days. It is scheduled to conclude December 29.
At the all-party meeting, Joshi gave details about the government’s legislative agenda for the session and sought the Opposition’s cooperation for the passage of Bills. He said he had taken note of all issues raised by political parties and discussions would be held as per norms and procedures of Parliament.
“There are so many issues facing the country such as unemployment and price rise, and the government owes an answer to the people,” Congress leader Chowdhury told reporters after the meeting.
He said the government did not “properly” inform the Opposition about the standoff on the Sino-Indian boundary. “In the House, we will demand a discussion on it, and also on the killing of Kashmiri Pandits,” he said.
While the BJD demanded passage of the women’s reservation Bill, the Shiv Sena’s Shinde faction sought a population control Bill.
Opposition members also questioned the government’s intent of getting around 25 Bills passed in 17 sittings.
The Congress has already made it clear that it would oppose three Bills which it believes cannot be passed in the present form. The party will demand that the Multi-state Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill and the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill be referred to standing committees. While the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill has already been examined by a Joint Committee of Parliament, the party believes there are many problematic clauses in the Bill.