Opposition parties said on Saturday they will seek answers from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government over a slowing economy, growing unemployment and farm distress during Parliament’s winter session, which is scheduled to be held from November 18 to December 13.
Ahead of the upcoming Parliament session, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla appealed to all political parties to cooperate in ensuring a smooth functioning of the House. Political leaders attended an all-party meeting on Saturday to discuss issues they wished to debate on during the Parliament session. The meeting was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Lok Sabha floor leader, Pinaki Misra, also demanded a day-long discussion on the deteriorating air quality in the National Capital Region. His proposal was supported by Birla and other opposition parties.
Birla said the House will try to discuss all issues raised by the parties. PM Modi praised the Lok Sabha Speaker for a fruitful monsoon session and said he hoped to see similar results in the upcoming session.
Elaborating on the Opposition’s strategy for the winter session, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said: “Issues of unemployment, economic conditions, farmer’s plight and price rise are likely to be discussed in the House. But we have also requested the Speaker that the Opposition should be given more space. We reminded him how we cooperated with him in the last session.”
The Congress’s floor leader Adhir Chowdhury earlier said that their “main focus will be on the bread and butter issues, the way the BJP has mismanaged the economy and shrinking job opportunities”.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said “the Left’s focus will be on the misery imposed by the government on the vast majority of the people”.
On Saturday evening, the BJP’s official Twitter handle said, “Initiatives from Modi Govt is making the workforce economically healthier. Beating global slowdown, Indian employees are expected to receive a pay hike of 5.4% in 2020 – highest in Asia – according to ECA International. The continental average for 2020 stands at 3.2%.”
The remarks by opposition parties come against the backdrop of the Indian economy growing 5% in the three months ended June, the slowest rate of growth in 25 quarters. The government has announced several measures in an attempt to boost the economy, including a move to slash corporate tax rates.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister also joined the leaders over tea during the all-party meet. “Had a wonderful interaction with leaders and MPs across party lines this evening. We look forward to a productive Parliament session, where people-centric and development oriented issues would be discussed,” the Prime Minister tweeted after the meeting.
The Lok Sabha Speaker told the PM that all parties assured him the House will function smoothly. “We have held discussions with leaders from various political parties. We will try to discuss the issues in Parliament that were raised by them. The way the first session of 17th Lok Sabha was conducted, we should try that the House runs smoothly and good issues are debated in Parliament,” Birla told reporters after the meeting.
During the meeting, some political leaders also raised questions over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, but parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told them that the government will discuss its legislative agenda at another meeting that will be held on Sunday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has officially informed Parliament that it wants to amend the Citizenship Act in the upcoming session, a move that could trigger protests by several opposition parties. The planned Citizenship Amendment Bill provides for Indian citizenship to be granted to non-Muslims of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The bill figures in the tentative list of 35 bills the parliamentary affairs ministry has sent to the legislative branch of the Lok Sabha.
The list, provided by the Lok Sabha secretariat, also includes the industrial relations code — one of the four labour reforms — and the proposal to replace two ordinances on banning e-cigarettes and lowering corporate tax rates.
During the all-party meeting, PM Modi spent nearly 40 minutes informally chatting with leaders from across parties. During the discussions, some leaders asked the PM to speak in the House about his recent diplomatic visits and other important decisions taken by the government.
The Budget Session of Parliament, the first for the second term of the Modi government, had ended on a high note with the effective scrapping of Article 370, enactment of a law to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, and approval of the landmark triple talaq bill. It was the most productive inaugural session of a new Lok Sabha since Independence, data showed.
Thirty bills, including the financial legislations that are part of the budget, were cleared by both Houses, the highest in any session in the past decade. The Lower House sat for more than 280 hours, often till evening, and cleared 36 bills, setting a new benchmark.