New Delhi: Despite efforts to broker peace between the opposition and the government, the Budget Session of Parliament is set to start on a stormy note on Tuesday. Several issues like the JNU row, Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide set to dominate the proceedings of both the Houses. Also the Pathankot IAF base terror strike and the ties with neighbouring Pakistan will be discussed on the floor of the House.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with leaders of opposition parties on February 16, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu will hold another all-party meeting tomorrow to reach out to political rivals for smooth functioning of Parliament. The same day, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will also hold consultations with leaders of all parties in the House.
A meeting of the Congress Working Committee has been convened by party chief Sonia Gandhi on the eve of the session. The deliberations at the meeting is expected to set the tone for the Budget session. At the Monday meeting, Congress will finalize its floor strategy for the session.
Chairing a meeting of leaders of all parties from Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari yesterday reminded political parties "time has come to assure the public that parliamentary democracy does work and is sensitive to the needs of the people." The remarks come in the backdrop of last two sessions being a virtual washout with the opposition and government locking horns over a number of issues including the key reform measure of GST.
The government has already said it is open to debating the JNU row in Parliament or any other issue that the opposition wants to take up.
Naidu had also held a meeting of leaders of a number of opposition parties on February 4 where it was decided to have a full-length session and not to go for any curtailment of its duration despite assembly elections in five states.
Govt keen to push legislative agenda
The government has a heavy legislative agenda to push through in this session. A list of 74 items of business has been compiled by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on the basis of responses received from various ministries and departments which, according to sources, contain 62 legislative Items and 12 financial Items. It was decided to give 26 items 'top priority' as the ministries wanted them to be introduced and passed in the Budget session itself.
A total of 16 bills, including the GST Bill, Lokpal (Amendment) Bill, Factories (Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Hijacking Bill are pending in Parliament -- five in Lok Sabha and 11 in the Rajya Sabha.
The government will also push for the passage of a bill to replace the ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act, which was promulgated on January 8. An ordinance lapses 42 days/6 weeks from the day a session begins unless a bill to replace it is cleared by Parliament. The ordinance amends the 47-year-old Enemy Property Act to allow custodians to continue to retain control over such properties.
The government is keen to push its legislative agenda in the Budget session, including the pending bills on GST and real estate, thwarted in the last two sessions, while the opposition is raring to target it on a host of issues, including the JNU row, Hyderabad Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide, imposition of President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, and terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur.
Raising questions over the process of the appointment of Vice Chancellors of JNU and Delhi University, a number of opposition parties have come together against the government, accusing it of "undermining" the autonomy of the institutions.
Naidu had last month met Sonia Gandhi seeking cooperation for the early passage of the crucial GST and the real estate bills but Congress said the government has offered nothing substantial on its three demands on the key tax reform.
The session will commence on February 23 and will focus largely on the financial business of the government. The General Budget will be presented on February 29.
The first part of Budget Session will end on March 16 and the second part will be convened from April 25 to May 13.
On February 16, the Prime Minister had reached out to the opposition by holding a meeting of leaders of major political parties. In the first such exercise initiated by Modi against the backdrop of repeated stalling of Parliament sessions, he had sought their cooperation saying, "I am not the Prime Minister of BJP alone but the entire country."
The Winter Session had ended on December 23, leaving the Goods and Services Tax Bill and a number of other measures in limbo. The government's legislative agenda had suffered a serious setback due to lack of support from the numerically stronger Congress-led opposition in Rajya Sabha.
With PTI Inputs