All-party meeting on the eve of the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament has witnessed heated exchange over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) indicating that the Budget session is likely to be stormy.
In the meeting, Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi announced that the government intends to bring 45 bills and two ordinances — on insolvency and coal mining — apart from seven financial bills in the Budget Session.
It is said that even the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally Shiromani Akali Dal, and the government’s steadfast supporter the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), also turned the heat on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the meeting. Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bunder said that the government should not pass any legislation that divides people, referring to the CAA without taking its name. On Goods and Services Tax, BJD floor leader Pinaki Misra alleged that the Centre is not paying states their due and forcing them come to Delhi with a begging bowl.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who joined the meeting midway, urged parties to discuss how India could harness the global situation to improve its economy. He also said that the government is ready to answer all issues in the House.
The session starts on Friday in the backdrop of the continuing, widespread protests against the CAA. The CAA, passed in December in Parliament’s Winter Session, fast tracks the citizenship process to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in India before 2015. The Opposition-ruled assemblies of Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have already passed resolutions in their assemblies demanding the scrapping of the law, which has already been challenged in the Supreme Court.
Politicians across opposition parties said they will launch an “all-round” attack on the government on citizenship issues, lack of jobs and the state of economy. Almost all opposition parties, except the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, demanded at the meeting that political leaders detained in Kashmir be released.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the government of “dividing the country” through legislation and said the ruling dispensation doesn’t allow any discussions. Trinamool’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay and his Rajya Sabha counterpart, Derek O’Brien, demanded a debate on the CAA, NRC, National Population Register (NPR), jobs and the state of the economy. The Shiv Sena, a former ally of the BJP which has since parted ways with its partner, skipped the meeting.
RJD’s Manoj Jha praised defence minister Rajnath Singh and said as long as Singh was the home minister the BJP didn’t nullify Article 370 or bifurcate the state into two Union territories (as was done in August last year) because Singh understood the problems in Kashmir. National People’s Party (NPP) leader Agatha Sangma demanded that north-east India should be exempted from CAA and NRC.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said members cutting across party lines will be given sufficient time to speak on all issues. The Budget Session will end on April 3. Both Houses will be adjourned for recess from February 11 to March 2.