J&K polls, farm distress, unemployment dominate oppn agenda at all-party meet

J&K polls, farm distress, unemployment dominate oppn agenda at all-party meet

A day before the Budget session of Parliament, the CongressSunday raised with the government issues of unemployment, farmers distress,drought, and press freedom, while also calling for early conduct of assemblypolls in Jammu and Kashmir.

At an all-party meeting called by the government, theopposition parties demanded discussion on all such issues in Parliament, withthe Congress asserting that it is still a "fight of ideologies".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh,Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress lawmakersAdhir Ranjan Choudhary, K Suresh, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullahand TMC leader Derek O'Brien were present at the meeting.

The opposition also strongly raised the issue of women'sreservation bill with Trinamool Congress leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay andO'Brien asserting that the bill be listed and passed in the current session ofParliament.

The opposition also flagged concerns over weakening offederalism and asserted that "deliberately targeting of states isunacceptable".

"We congratulated the government. But with that we alsotold them that this is a fight of ideologies, it was a fight of ideologies andit will remain a fight of ideologies," Azad told reporters after themeeting.

He said the Congress party is the foundation of secularforces and will always work to keep that spirit alive whether it is ingovernment or in opposition.

"Even when out of power, we will continue to work forthe upliftment of farmers, labourers and women. We also said that there aresome issues that the government should pay attention to such as those of thefarmers, drought, lack of drinking water, and massive unemployment in thecountry," Azad said.

The government needs to immediately pay attention tounemployment that has increased in the last five years, he asserted.

"We also raised the issue of freedom of press. Thebehaviour of ruling party workers towards journalists was also raised. They(journalists) are being beaten and efforts are being made to muzzle theirvoice. We condemn that and urged the government to look into it," he said.

Azad said the independence of institutions and"weakening of federalism" was also taken up with the government atthe meeting.

According to him, the Congress told the government thatthere is no need of president's rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

On one hand the government says the environment is notconducive for polls and that is why president's rule has been imposed, and onthe other hand the centre says panchayat elections were carried out peacefullylast year, Azad said.

"Lok Sabha elections were also held in Jammu andKashmir recently and even they were conducted peacefully. So, when panchayatand parliamentary polls can be conducted, why not state polls," he asked.

"We told the government that you are not conducting thepolls there because the BJP government will not be formed. That is why you wantto rule the state through governor's rule," the former chief minister ofJammu and Kashmir said.

The Union Cabinet last week approved extension ofPresident's rule in Jammu and Kashmir for six more months beginning July 3.

An official statement said based on the prevailing situationin Jammu and Kashmir as stated in the report of the governor, the UnionCabinet, chaired by the prime minister has approved the extension ofPresident's rule in the state for a further period of six months with effectfrom July 3, 2019, under article 356(4) of the Constitution of India.

The TMC raised the issues of electoral reforms, includingstate funding of elections and paper ballots.

The party also flagged the opposition's concerns over thegovernment's use of ordinances, saying that in the spirit of the Constitutionthis should be used only as an "emergency" tool.

"Unfortunately, in the 16th Lok Sabha it was blatantlyoverused. Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years," Bandyopadhyay andO'Brien said.

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