Government is set to face tough times during the Budget session of Parliament starting tomorrow even as it promised to walk the “extra mile” to accommodate opposition’s concerns and Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for cooperation for the benefit of common man.
Modi underlined at a meeting of all parties here that smooth functioning of Parliament should be ensured as the Budget session is very crucial and people look at it with lots of hopes and aspirations.
The leaders of all political parties should collectively ensure proper utilisation of time in both Houses of Parliament “so that we can work towards meeting the hopes and aspirations of people”, he said about the session during which his government will present its first full-fledged Budget.
“It is the collective responsibility of leaders of all parties to ensure that this session runs smoothly so that the House can fulfill aspiratations of people…Hope we can collectively work for the benefit of common man,” Modi said.
Referring to the various issues that opposition is waiting to raise, he told the leaders attending the meeting, “I can assure you that all the issues you have referred to will be discussed adequately and appropriately in order of their priority and importance.”
Earlier, the tone for the concilliatory approach was set when Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, in an unusual gesture, drove to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s residence to meet her to seek cooperation of the largest opposition party in carrying out the legislative business.
However, the opposition parties appeared to be unimpressed and made clear their mood of taking on the government, particularly on the move to amend the Land Acquisition Act.
Naidu admitted that some opposition parties expressed reservations against the land ordinance move even as there was “broad consensus” on five other Ordinances to be converted into Acts.
While describing his meeting Gandhi as a “cordial” one, Naidu said she expressed concerns over land Ordinance.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad also said that Congress will not support those Ordinances and bills, which “do not help people”.
JD-U President Sharad Yadav said it will be a “fight to the finish” as he lashed out at the government, saying it had made the land law worse than what existed during the British time.
INLD leader Dushyant Chautala demanded that the proposed bill to convert the land Ordinance into a new Act should be referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament for a review of the changes brought in the old law by the government.
Naidu acknowledged that land acquisition is an “emotive issue” and needs to be addressed “sincerely without undue politicisation”.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the government is always willing to sit with opposition to resolve differences on any issue. “A spirit of mutual cooperation is required to ensure productive budget session,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any issue that cannot be resolved with an open mind,” he said.
On land issue, he said state governments, cutting across political spectrum, have expressed difficulties in acquiring land under the provisions of the Act of 2013.
“Based on such feedback, the government only wants to facilitate timely acquisition of land and that too for the purposes of infrastructure, affordable housing etc,” Naidu said while justifying the Ordinance brought on the issue to amend the Act passed during the UPA rule.
“All of you will appreciate that there has been no change in the remuneration to be paid to farmers or the rehabilitation measures to be undertaken for the displaced people,” he said.
He said opposition parties have the “legitimate right” to raise their concerns in the matter and the government has the responsibility of addressing their concerns.
“Parliament is the right forum to address such differences between the opposition and the government and to find a way forward… Let us understand each other so that the broader objective of infrastructure and economic development of the country is ensured while protecting the interests of the farmers,” said Naidu, who also holds the portfolio of Urban Development.
Significantly, Naidu, unlike earlier, evaded direct reply to questions about the possibility of convening a joint session to pass the bills in face of the non-cooperation of the Opposition.
“There is a joint sitting tomorrow,” he said evasively, referring to President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to Parliament on the first day of the Budget session
The government’s attempt to reach out to opposition parties came at a time when protests on land ordinance issue are growing.
While Anna Hazare is starting a dharna at Jantar Mantar here tomorrow, Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership will do so on February 25.
A group of farmer leaders had a meeting with senior ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Chaudhary Birender Singh last night to express their reservations against the land ordinance.
Speaking at Singh’s residence, the farmers’ representatives said the government appears in a mood to have a re-think on the land ordinance and could be amenable to changes.
Naidu said the government has brought about the land acquisition Ordinance after a detailed interaction with states.
He said a higlight of the all-party meet was that most of the leaders favoured a smooth functioning of Parliament. He said the Opposition “should have its say while the government should have its way as it has got the mandate of the people”.
The meeting saw the leaders seeking debate on a variety of issues including the communal statements by some members of BJP and Sangh Parivar, attack on churches, swine flu situation, agrarian crisis, Indo-Pak border situation, minimum support price for farm produce.
Some also sought discussion on ‘Vyapam’ scam in Madhya Pradesh, saffronisation of education and agrarian crisis.
A number of members raised concerns over the corporate espoinage case with Sharad Yadav seeking a thorough probe to expose the big fish.
The murder of Comrade Govind Pansare in Maharashtra was raised by CPI’s D Raja.
Later, Shiv Sena leader of the Rajya Sabha Sanjay Raut said all political parties are concerned over it.
The meeting saw 42 leaders from both the Houses of Parliament expressing their views. There was no representation from Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Janta Dal.
A government release said most of them highlighted the need for smooth functioning of Parliament to enable discussion on all issues of concern both for the government and the opposition.
Several leaders welcomed Prime Minister’s recent statement on religious freedom and right to promote one’s religion and his call for respecting all religions, Naidu said.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said, “Parliamentary democracy is all about deciding on issues through discusssion. Different parties will convey their views on Ordinances and other issues whenever taken up.”
NCP leader Sharad Pawar said, “Budget session is important and we need to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament.”
National People’s Party leader P A Sangma also spoke on similar lines so also some other leaders.
BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab noted that there has been undue focus on the Ordinances in the media in general while it should have been on the Budget and economic issues.
“We need to focus on budget issues. We want both the Houses to function smoothly and decide on major issues. Efforts shall be made to move forward on important issues throgh rapproachment,” he said in the meeting.
Leaders of different parties from Tamil Nadu suggested that during the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to Sri Lanka, a conducive atmosphere may be created for protecting the rights of Tamil fishermen and Tamils in Sri Lanka.
People’s representatives from Andhra Pradesh sought necessary action for fulfilling the assurances given to the state in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act including the special status and special package for the state.
Later former Union Minister and Congress leader J D Seelam told reporters that he has apprised Leaders of both Houses of his party that the issue should be raised so that the promise is fulfilled.
TRS leaders also spoke of the need for doing the needful for the state of Telangana.
Leaders from North-East suggested that they be given sufficient time in both the Houses putting aside the principle of time allocation based on numerical strength.
The six bills on Ordinances have to be passed in the first half Of the session which ends on March 20.
The NDA government is especially under pressure to legislate the Ordinances on insurance and the coal sectors so that the new systems could be put in place for attracting FDI in insurance and for auctioning of coal blocks.