A day before the Budget session of Parliament, 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 Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress lawmakers Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, 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 Sudip Bandyopadhyay 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.
“Lok Sabha 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 Lok Sabha it was blatantly overused. Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years,” Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien said.