New Delhi: The opposition is all set to corner the government on the issues of demonetisation and suicide of a veteran soldier for alleged denial of adequate pension as per the OROP policy, among others, in Parliament’s Winter Session beginning tomorrow.
The Indian National Congress (INC) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) have submitted notices to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for suspension of business of the both the Upper and Lower Houses to debate the sudden abolition of currency notes of denomination Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in the night of 8 November.
“We will raise government’s failures on all fronts, including black money and issues concerning farmers. There have been about 300 ceasefire violations in Jammu & Kashmir in the last one-and-a-half months which has resulted in soldiers being martyred and civilian deaths,” INC spokesman Ajoy Kumar told a news agency.
A joint protest march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan by most opposition parties, which was being speculated, may, however, not happen on the first day of the Winter Session. After a 13-party meet, INC leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “So far as the march is concerned, there was a unanimous decision by everybody that the march tomorrow is too early. As an opposition party, we must have a march in due course of time, but not on the very first day. On the first day of Parliament, we must hold a discussion inside the House.”
It will be interesting to note how the Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)], which participated in the meet, articulates its position on the situation of cash crunch in Parliament, given that the party’s chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision on 9 November. “Apart from demonetisation, we will take up issues concerning farmers, the present situation in Kashmir, one rank one pension and government’s flip-flops on Pakistan,” KC Tyagi of the party said.
“Other issues we will be raising include the alleged politicisation of Army’s surgical strikes and communalisation (sic) of the entire system. On Goods and Services Tax, the concerns of States are not being taken into account,” Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader NK Premachandran has said.
Curiously, despite their leaders’ strong statements of disagreement with the government, the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did not attend the meeting. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were not represented in the meeting either.
In the all-party meeting convened by the Speaker ahead of the session, of course, Prime Minister Modi had said “that all parties should show support (to demonetisation) in the Winter Session in the national interest”, Union minister Ananth Kumar informed the Press.
The Treasury Benches have their own topics for debate. As Ananth Kumar said, “PM Modi also said that discussion should be done on the possibility of holding Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections together.”
The tenor of Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s statement was more aggressive. “PM has thanked all the political parties that have supported the government. During the session, we will come to know which party is supporting black money hoarders,” he said, adding, “Many opposition parties are welcoming the move and if there are some opposing it, it will be known who is standing with the hoarders and the corrupt.”
Partners of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) stand rock solid in support of the government. At the alliance’s meeting before the session, Union minister Ramvilas Paswan congratulated the prime minister for his “bold and decisive” decision to abolish two high-denomination currency notes.
“The NDA constituents told the Prime Minister that they will stand by him till the fight against corruption is taken to its logical end. They also appreciated the steps taken by the Finance Ministry to extend help to the people in solving inconvenience cause by the demonetisation decision,” Ananth Kumar said.
The only jarring note from within the allies came expectedly from the Shiv Sena. It has described the move as “demonic and unsystematic”, which, according to it, has led to “financial anarchy”.
On Monday, the Modi-led BJP had already decided in its parliamentary board meet that there would be no rollback of the decision. “The PM said people of the country have supported the decision overwhelmingly but opposition parties want to sabotage it, which should be strongly countered,” Kumar had said yesterday.
The BJP, sources in the party told सिर्फ़ News, could also read out a laundry list of scandals some of the opposition parties are alleged to be involved in. “They must have hidden part of the loot from these scams in their personal closets in high-value currency notes,” a leader of the party said under the condition of anonymity, referring to the Saradha chit fund scam as an example. Alluding to the BSP, another leader said that Mayawati was upset because her entire strategy for the Uttar Pradesh election was “cash intensive”.
Such retaliatory fire, however, should be expected only from the Members of Parlament (MP) lower in the pecking order of the BJP, as the leadership in the government is anxious to pass several crucial Bills in this session. The first 3 are GST-related: the Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill and Goods and Services Tax (Compensation for Loss of Revenue) Bill. Then there are the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, Divorce (Amendment) Bill, Indian Institutes of Management Bill, Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill.
The long list includes Bills required to change some laws of the United Progressive Alliance era. The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, are such examples.
The government further plans to bring in two amendments in the laws of 2015: the Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill and Consumer Protection Bill, 2015.
Also on the government’s agenda is the passing of the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Factories (Amendment) Bill, Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill and Employee’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill. Fighting fire with fire may not be a good strategy if all these proposed laws are to see the light of the day.