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, theopposition parties demanded discussion on all such issues in Parliament, withthe 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 lawmakersAdhirRanjanChoudhary, K Suresh, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah andTMC leader Derek O'Brien were present at the meeting.
The opposition also strongly raised the issue of women'sreservation bill with Trinamool Congress leaders SudipBandyopadhyay and O'Brienasserting 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.
"LokSabha elections were also held in Jammu and Kashmirrecently and even they were conducted peacefully. So, when Panchayat andParliamentary 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 LokSabha it was blatantlyoverused. Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years," Bandyopadhyay andO'Brien said.
DISRUPTIONS BAD FOR PARLIAMENT: PM
Earlier, Prime Minister NarendraModi Sunday told floorleaders of different political parties in the Parliament to keep politicaldifferences aside and not disrupt the functioning of the two Houses.
Addressing them ahead of Parliament's Budget sessionstarting on Monday, Modi urged all political parties to work cohesively withthe government for a smooth functioning of the House.
The Prime Minister welcomed the newly-elected MPs andexpressed hope that fresh zeal and energy would be infused in the functioningof the Parliament.
Modi urged all leaders to introspect whether MPs were ableto fulfil people's aspirations as their representatives.
"We are for the people… We cannot win hearts by disruptingthe functioning of the Parliament. All parties must keep political differencesaside and commit themselves to tirelessly work in the direction of nation'sprogress."
The Prime Minister said the government was always receptiveto the issues raised by the political parties and was ready to discuss allmatters of national importance on the floor of both the Houses.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said that therewas consensus across party lines to ensure a smooth functioning of Parliamentsans disruptions and deadlocks.
In the Budget session, the LokSabha and the RajyaSabha wouldhave 30 and 27 sittings respectively between June 17 and July 26.
Giving details, Joshi said the first session of the 17thLokSabha will commence on June 17 while the 249th session of the RajyaSabhawill begin on June 20. The coming session will mainly be devoted tooath taking, election of the Speaker, motion of thanks on the President'saddress and financial business relating to the Union Budget for 2019-20.