A combative Opposition on Monday told the government that it planned to raise questions around the Adani controversy, inflation, unemployment, and the federal compact in the upcoming budget session of Parliament, people aware of details said, even as the government stressed it was open to discussing any topic provided the House rules and the chair allowed it.
At an all-party meeting ahead of the budget session of Parliament beginning on Tuesday, some opposition parties also asked for greater space to air issues even as there appeared to be near unanimity on the need to bring in a women’s reservation bill, which will reserve one-third of Lok Sabha and state assembly seats for women.
Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said the government was always positive in discussing every topic, provided it could be allowed under the rules of the House and had the chair’s permission. “We seek the Opposition’s cooperation in running Parliament smoothly,” Joshi added.
The budget session will begin with an address by President Droupadi Murmu to a joint sitting of both Houses, followed by the tabling of the economic survey. The next day, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the last full budget of this term of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government).
Monday’s meeting was attended by 37 floor leaders from 27 opposition parties. Joshi said the Congress floor leaders were unable to attend the event because they were in Jammu and Kashmir for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The Congress leaders are likely to meet him on Tuesday to convey their views, Joshi added.
The session will have 27 sittings and conclude on April 6, with a month-long recess between February 13 and March 12. All eyes are on whether the government and Opposition reach an agreement to curb disruptions because eight previous session in a row since March 2020 have been cut short,
According to the people quoted above, leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said a discussion on the controversy around Adani Group’s financial status following allegations of fraud and manipulation by US firm Hindenburg Research should be taken up in the session. AAP leader Sanjay Singh said it was a matter of concern that Life Insurance Corporation of India and the State Bank of India invested huge sums of money in the Adani group.
RJD parliamentarian Manoj Jha said the Union government should issue a statement on the issue. “It is a matter of concern that a group against whom serious allegations have been made is using the Indian flag and has the audacity to say that the report on the company is an attack on India. Parliament has to have a discussion on this and send out a message that Adani is not India,” Jha said.
The RJD leader also said that his party sought a pan-India caste census and special status for Bihar and other “backward states”.
The Shiva Sena called for a Securities and Exchange Board of India probe into the charges that Adani manipulated share prices and committed accounting fraud.
Adani has refuted the charges, and called it a calculated attack on India, even as its stock prices slumped and its public offering saw a tepid response.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) — which was the first to raise the issue of deteriorating ties between the Union government and Opposition-ruled states — said opposition parties needed more space to air their views. TMC’s Sudip Bandhopadhyay said the legislature should not be used merely for passing bills and also raised the controversy surrounding a recent BBC documentary on the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
The TMC stance on the face-off between governors and state governments in some states was supported by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, the AAP, and some parties.
“The TMC was first to speak about federalism, they wanted a discussion on governors or lieutenant governor’s intervention. Though there is no provision to discuss the role of governors in Parliament, but a discussion on the structure of federalism where the role of the governors can be raised,” BRS leader Kesava Rao said.
In recent months, a number of states ruled by parties opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party — including Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — have faced off with their respective governors.
The YSR Congress, often seen as a party backs the BJP on key issues, raised eyebrows with its demand for a nationwide caste census. In the wake of a growing demand for a caste-based count, the BJP has maintained an ambivalent stance on the issue.
YSRC leader Vijay Sai Reddy said, “Even though backward classes constitute half of our population, we still do not have updated data on their population and socio-economic state. The caste-wise enumeration of backward classes in the upcoming decennial census is necessary to formulate scientific policies for their welfare.”
The Bahujan Samaj Party raised the issue of the ongoing border row with China. But the government cited security implications to rule out a discussion on the issue.
Some of the key bills that can come up for discussion and passage in the forthcoming session are the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that was introduced in December 2021; Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen(Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced in 2018; the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022 Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, that was referred to a standing committee and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 also referred to a standing committee in 2022.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal, V Muraleedharan and Arjun Ram Meghwal were present at the all-party meeting. A meeting of the NDA allies was also held later in the day.