At the all-party meeting on the eve of the Budget session of Parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi sought the help of leaders of all political parties in realising the dream of building a New India by 2022, even asking them to ‘introspect’ how people’s representatives could win the hearts of the people they represented by disrupting Parliament.
The Opposition demanded debates on unemployment, farm distress, and the drought situation across several regions of the country during the Budget session. Against the backdrop of the tense political situation in West Bengal, the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders asked the Centre to respect the spirit of federalism. “Deliberately targeting states is unacceptable,” the TMC’s Lok Sabha (LS) leader, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, said.
PM has led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a rare successive single-party majority in the 2019 polls with 303 seats in the LS, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with 353 seats. The numbers would legislation in the LS easy for the government. However, the Rajya Sabha (RS) remains a challenge, where the NDA with 102 seats continues to be short of a majority in the House. The first obstacle could be the triple talaq Bill, which the Cabinet approved last week for tabling in Parliament. The previous LS had passed the triple talaq Bill, but the RS did not, and it now stands lapsed. Not just most of the Opposition, but the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, has said it will oppose the Bill in its current form as it seeks to criminalise triple talaq. The highlights of the session will be the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Monday, oath-taking of new members, and election of the Speaker, the tabling of the Economic Survey on July 4, and the Union Budget on July 5.
Later in the day, the BJP also held a meeting of its parliamentary party executive committee. It has appointed new leaders for the RS, with Union Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot its leader in the House and Piyush Goyal his deputy. Modi remains the leader of the LS, while Rajnath Singh remains his deputy. The Congress is yet to decide on its leader in the LS. Mallikarjun Kharge was its leader in the previous LS, but lost the polls. While some in the party want Congress President Rahul Gandhi to accept the job, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor has expressed his keenness to take up the job.
After the all-party meeting, new Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the PM has proposed two new initiatives. He said that in “order to build esprit de corps among members of all parties, the PM has invited party chiefs with representation in Parliament on June 19 and MPs of both Houses on June 20 for meetings”.
The June 19 meeting had a five-point agenda — ways to improve the productivity of Parliament, ‘one country, one election’, building of a New India in the 75th year of Independence, celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, and development of ‘aspirational districts’. In his address, the PM asked leaders of all parties to work cohesively with the Centre in running the House smoothly and collectively address issues related to the welfare of people. He “urged all leaders to introspect whether MPs are able to fulfil peoples’ aspirations as their representatives.” “We are for the people. We cannot win hearts by disrupting the functioning of the House. All parties must keep differences aside and commit themselves to tirelessly work in the direction of nation’s progress,” said Modi. He asked leaders to cooperate with the government to strive in the direction of making a New India by 2022 and achieve the true meaning of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’.
The LS will sit from June 17 to July 26. It would take up key Bills and need to replace 10 Ordinances promulgated during the inter-session period with Acts of Parliament. The two Houses would also need to approve a resolution, seeking extension of President’s rule in Jammu & Kashmir. The triple talaq Bill is one of 46 Bills that have lapsed on the dissolution of the previous LS, and some of these are likely to be revived and brought before Parliament.
The government has reached out to the Opposition parties, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Joshi meeting UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi last week. Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting that his party would support all those Bills which are in the interests of the people. He said farm distress, unemployment, and drought be discussed and called for early conduct of Assembly elections in J&K. TMC’s Bandyopadhyay called for electoral reforms, including state funding of elections, and paper ballots. He bemoaned that fewer Bills were now being sent for scrutiny to parliamentary committees.