As President Pranab Mukherjee started the budget session with his address to both the Houses, he talked about the GDP growth, government’s effort to tackle black money and bold and proactive foreign policy. But that cannot discount the fact that the opposition is waiting for their turn before it can start questioning the BJP government on several issues. Before the end of his speech, the President struck a positive note by professing that “Democratic temper calls for debate & discussion and not disruption or obstruction”.
JNU Row, Jat Agitation and Other Issues
The Jawaharlal Nehru University row and the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar is likely to bring the Parliament to a halt. The Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already accused the government of crushing the dissenting voice of students and civil society. The suicide of the Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula will also cause some disruption in the House as the Left parties have also been preparing their points to corner the government. Two other major issues that would also figure prominently in the parliamentary debates are the terror attack in Pathankot and the ongoing Jat agitation for caste-based reservation.
Opposition parties, which are led by the Congress, had promised to cooperate with the government in passing Bills on condition that the issues that they want to raise should be thoroughly discussed on priority. The opposition has announced its support for a “disruption-free session,” but they also made it clear that government will be grilled on issues like the JNU controversy, the suicide of Dalit scholar, President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh and other burning issues. According to the opposition, debate on these issues should precede any discussion on contentious legislations like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill
After the Winter session turned into a lost opportunity, the government is under pressure to continue with the legislative business. It is trying to play safe and wisely this time by showing genuine urgency in resolving the issues and more importantly, discussing about them. Venkaiah Naidu will host a meeting on Jat reservation issue at his residence at 3:30 PM in the presence of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar. Secondly, it has announced its decision to discuss JNU and Rohith Vemula issue in Lok Sabha on 25 February.
The government is staring at a list of 74 items of business that reportedly contain 62 legislative items and 12 financial items. According to media reports, the government is keen on giving top priority to 26 items that ministries want to be introduced and passed in the Budget session. What makes the job even more challenging is the fact that a total of 16 bills, including the GST Bill, Lokpal (Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Hijacking Bill are still pending in the Parliament. In the midst of all this, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present the rail budget on 25 February and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will table the Union Budget on 29 February.
The government had reached out to non-Congress and non-Left parties individually with a request to let the House function. This will hold good for several regional parties who have complained about not getting adequate time to raise their issues due to disruptions.
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