J&K polls dominate Oppn agenda

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

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

Prime Minister NarendraModi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the RajyaSabhaGhulamNabi Azad, Congress lawmakers AdhirRanjanChoudhary, K Suresh, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and TMC leader Derek O’Brien were present at the meeting.

The opposition also strongly raised the issue of women’s reservation bill with Trinamool Congress leaders SudipBandyopadhyay and O’Brien asserting that the bill be listed and passed in the current session of Parliament.

The opposition also flagged concerns over weakening of federalism and asserted that “deliberately targeting of states is unacceptable”.

“We congratulated the government. But with that we also told them that this is a fight of ideologies, it was a fight of ideologies and it will remain a fight of ideologies,” Azad told reporters after the meeting.

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

“Even when out of power, we will continue to work for the upliftment of farmers, labourers and women. We also said that there are some issues that the government should pay attention to such as those of the farmers, drought, lack of drinking water, and massive unemployment in the country,” Azad said.

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

“We also raised the issue of freedom of press. The behaviour of ruling party workers towards journalists was also raised. They (journalists) are being beaten and efforts are being made to muzzle their voice. 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 at the meeting.

According to him, the Congress told the government that there is no need of President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

On one hand the government says the environment is not conducive for polls and that is why President’s rule has been imposed, and on the other hand the centre says panchayat elections were carried out peacefully last year, Azad said.

“LokSabha elections were also held in Jammu and Kashmir recently and even they were conducted peacefully. So, when Panchayat and Parliamentary polls can be conducted, why not state polls,” he asked.

“We told the government that you are not conducting the polls there because the BJP government will not be formed. That is why you want to rule the state through Governor’s rule,” the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir said.

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

An official statement said based on the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir as stated in the report of the Governor, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the extension of President’s rule in the state for a further period of six months with effect from July 3, 2019, under article 356(4) of the Constitution of India.

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

The party also flagged the opposition’s concerns over the government’s use of ordinances, saying that in the spirit of the Constitution this should be used only as an “emergency” tool.

“Unfortunately, in the 16th LokSabha it was blatantly overused. Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years,” Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien said.

DISRUPTIONS BAD FOR PARLIAMENT: PM

Earlier, Prime Minister NarendraModi Sunday told floor leaders of different political parties in the Parliament to keep political differences aside and not disrupt the functioning of the two Houses.

Addressing them ahead of Parliament’s Budget session starting on Monday, Modi urged all political parties to work cohesively with the government for a smooth functioning of the House.

The Prime Minister welcomed the newly-elected MPs and expressed hope that fresh zeal and energy would be infused in the functioning of the Parliament.

Modi urged all leaders to introspect whether MPs were able to fulfil people’s aspirations as their representatives.

“We are for the people… We cannot win hearts by disrupting the functioning of the Parliament. All parties must keep political differences aside and commit themselves to tirelessly work in the direction of nation’s progress.”

The Prime Minister said the government was always receptive to the issues raised by the political parties and was ready to discuss all matters of national importance on the floor of both the Houses.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that there was consensus across party lines to ensure a smooth functioning of Parliament sans disruptions and deadlocks.

In the Budget session, the LokSabha and the RajyaSabha would have 30 and 27 sittings respectively between June 17 and July 26.

Giving details, Joshi said the first session of the 17th LokSabha will commence on June 17 while the 249th session of the RajyaSabha will begin on June 20. The coming session will mainly be devoted to oath taking, election of the Speaker, motion of thanks on the President’s address and financial business relating to the Union Budget for 2019-20.