The govt plans to push through a number of draft laws, but is quite likely to be taken to task by the Opposition
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government plans to push through a number of draft laws as Parliament convenes on Monday for the month-long monsoon session, but opposition parties have vowed to take it to task on issues ranging from rising prices to internal security.
The battle lines were drawn on Friday itself, when the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), turned down Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s lunch invitation, following court summons for Amit Shah, then the party’s junior home minister in Gujarat. Shah, who is accused of extortion, kidnapping and murder, resigned on Saturday and was arrested on Sunday.
The government has prepared an extensive legislative agenda for the session, which runs until 27 August.
“It is a business session as we have 36 Bills (ready to be introduced), including three ordinances, which have to be transformed into legislation,” minister of state for parliamentary affairs V. Narayanasamy said. These include Bills to amend banking regulations and mining laws and improve judicial accountability.
In addition, there are 49 Bills already pending before the House, including three education reforms Bills, a corporate Bill and an insurance amendment Bill, according to the research firm PRS Legislative Research.
Narayanasamy added that the BJP had promised legislative discussions won’t be disturbed, as happened in the last session.
“At the meeting of chief whips, all parties have suggested that question hour should not be disturbed. The Prime Minister also clarified that the government is prepared to discuss any issue, be it the Maoist rebellion, Jammu and Kashmir or India to Pakistan,” he said.
The minister was referring to increasing violence perpetrated by Left-wing extremists, rising tensions in the insurgency-hit state of Jammu and Kashmir and stuttering peace talks with Pakistan.
But by refusing Singh’s Friday lunch invitation, the BJP has made it clear it is keen to take the government head-on.
Senior BJP leaders have accused the government of misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s top investigative agency, for targeting the Opposition, following the court summons for Shah. The government says it has no role in the court case.
Three weeks ago, the BJP, the Left parties and several other opposition parties had closed ranks to stage a nationwide strike against inflation and the hike in the prices of petroleum products.
Another contentious issue during the session could be the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, which is currently with a parliamentary standing committee. The passage of the Bill is required for operationalizing the India-US civil nuclear deal.
Both the BJP and the Left parties are opposed to the Bill, saying the cap it puts on the liability of the operator of a nuclear plant in case of a nuclear accident—Rs500 crore—was too low.
On Friday, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) issued a statement asking the government not to proceed with this Bill.
P. Karunakaran, CPM’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, said the party will raise issues such as the price rise, denial of justice to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, and the rising number of train accidents.
Two major train accidents in CPM-ruled West Bengal have claimed more than 200 lives over the past two months. The state will vote in assembly elections next year.
Karunakaran, however, said there will be no closing of ranks with the BJP inside the House. “There are issues in which protests could be clubbed with the BJP. But there is no formal floor coordination with them.”