Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge with BJP leader Ramdas Bandu Athawale and TMC MP Derek O’Brien during a meeting of floor leaders of all parties (PTI)
NEW DELHI: The opposition indicated that it plans to raise several issues ranging from fresh demands put forward by agitating farm unions such as removal of junior home minister Ajay Mishra over the Lakhimpur Kheri violence to the Pegasus controversy even as the government is set to move for repeal of the new farm laws in Parliament on Monday.
The all-party meeting on Sunday, which was not attended by PM Narendra Modi, saw the opposition listing several issues they intend to raise in the winter session, which is likely to start on a stormy note with the opposition looking to raise the heat despite the government’s decision to repeal the farm laws.
The issues associated with the farm stir were raised with gusto by the opposition parties and even parties that have cooperated with BJP in the customary meeting called by the government on the eve of the session. Modi’s decision to skip the meeting drew comments from the opposition leader.
R ajya Sabha leader of opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the opposition was keen to seek clarifications from the PM on whether farm laws can be brought back after some time. Defence minister Rajnath Singh chaired the meeting. Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi later said it was not a set norm for the PM to attend the meeting.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Rahul Gandhi’s demand of Rs 4 lakh compensation for every family that suffered a Covid casualty should be accepted, while Chinese aggression has to be debated, besides price rise, unemployment and the Pegasus scandal. Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut raised the issue of an MSP law, China and GST arrears of Maharashtra. Trinamool Congress’s focus is on the extension of jurisdiction of BSF among other issues.
Government assured opposition parties that all issues will be discussed and called for smooth functioning of Parliament with the monsoon session having seen continuous disruptions by the opposition on the Pegasus issue. Later in the NDA floor leaders meeting, alliance partner National People’s Party demanded the Centre to repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
National People’s Party MP Agatha Sangma told reporters said since the farm laws will be repealed and this was primarily keeping in mind the interests of the people, therefore, she requested the government to repeal the CAA keeping in mind the same sort of sentiments of the people from the northeast. “There was no response from the government but it has taken note of the demand,” Sangma said. Sources said issues are common to all parties and a coordinated stance against the government was likely despite the chill in relations between Congress and Trinamool Congress, and the likely absence of some other parties from the meeting called by Kharge on Monday morning.
If there is a debate on the repeal of farm laws, the opposition parties are likely to join the proceedings, which will be a departure from the usual scene of initial days of a new session getting washed away by disruptions. However, demands for sacking of minister Teni, MSP law and compensation for an alleged 700 farmers — as claimed by farm unions — who died during the protest, could add to tempers in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Congress members are planning to protest in the Parliament complex with black flags and dress.
Kharge told reporters that the government assured of holding debates on issues as decided by the Business Advisory Committee of the two Houses. He said there were 52 lakh dead in the pandemic and the government should pay compensation to them all. AAP MP Sanjay Singh walked out of the meeting, alleging that he was not allowed to speak.
Among those who attended the meeting included DMK’s T R Baalu, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav, Prasanna Acharya of BJD, Satish Mishra of BSP and Farooq Abdullah of NC. Yadav and NC Abdullah expressed doubts if Parliament will function smoothly, accusing the government of stubbornness. Abdullah said the government will have to rethink on J&K and restore Article 370 just like it has reconsidered and taken back the farm laws.