NDA holds all-party meet on eve of Parliament’s winter session

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New Delhi: The high-pitched political battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh shifts to Parliament on Friday, the opening day of the winter session that is likely to see the opposition parties corner the government on a range of issues—from the roll out of the goods and services tax (GST) to rural distress, price rise and the impact of demonetisation.

A day before the start of the winter session, two all-party meetings were convened, first by the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the other by Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

In the course of the first meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the cooperation of all political parties.

“PM requested all parties for cooperation in order to make this Parliament session a fruitful one,” said parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar after the meeting.

The main items on the government’s legislative agenda are a supplementary demand for grants; an amendment bill seeking to give the National Commission on Backward Classes constitutional status, a bill that gives Muslim women the right to seek maintenance from their husbands in case of triple talaq; and three ordinances including GST compensation to states, he added.

Interestingly, before the start of the two all-party meetings, opposition parties also organized a separate meeting which was attended by senior leaders of the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), National Conference (NC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India (CPI).

The meeting was crucial because it set the stage for floor coordination between opposition parties against the BJP-led NDA. These parties will meet once again on Monday.

“Two issues were discussed during the meeting. The first was on the allegations made by PM against former PM Manmohan Singh and disqualification of former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav from Rajya Sabha. The opposition parties will again meet on Monday to discuss their floor strategy,” said Tariq Anwar, senior leader of NCP, who was a part of the meeting.

The winter session of Parliament will be held from 15 December to 5 January—a 21-day session with 14 sittings of both houses. This session is expected to be stormy as it commences days before the announcement of results of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.

“It was indeed shocking that the Election Commission had failed to uphold its constitutional mandate. Instead of taking action for violations, the poll panel had allowed violations by the ruling party. The Election Commission had been indulgent in allowing the prime minister to dedicate a submarine on the day of the poll,” said a statement issued by the Congress party after the opposition meeting.

In the upcoming session, the NDA government plans to bring the controversial bill to end the practice of instant triple talaq and also re-introduce a bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2017, or FRDI Bill, which aims to limit the fallout of the failure of institutions like banks, insurance companies, non-banking financial companies, pension funds and stock exchanges, will also be taken up. The FRDI Bill 2017 was tabled in the Lok Sabha in August and was referred to the joint parliamentary committee, which will submit its report in this session.

According to PRS Legislative Research, other bills scheduled to be discussed include the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016, The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the National Bank for Agriculture And Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

Opposition parties also plan to raise issues like the implementation of the GST, demonetisation, price rise, rural distress and women reservation bill.

“If all the exit polls are to be believed, the wind is blowing in favour of the BJP, thus the opposition won’t have much to say or many issues to raise in the course of the session. Both GST and demonetisation were central issues in both the elections and if the electorate of both the states has voted in favour of these policies then the BJP will clearly have an upper hand in the session,” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.