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Opposition vs. Government: The Parliament faces heavy storms during its monsoon session

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

The dead-locks and stand-offs

The monsoon session of the Parliament has become the battleground between the Government and the Congress-led opposition parties. With crucial Bills at hand, the number of deadlocks in the house is constantly on the rise. After the washout of the first week, the session resumed on Monday, promising a continuation of the stand- off between the Modi government and the opposition, especially Congress and the left parties.

Picture credit: indianexpress.com
Picture credit: indianexpress.com

The session that began on July 21 continues till August 13. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before its commencement, said to the media that he hoped for a fruitful monsoon session in which MP’s would contribute towards making good decisions.

However, it seems that the opposition has no intention of cooperating with the current government as they continue the second week of the session with heels dug into controversies surrounding BJP.

On the first day itself, Rajya Sabha witnessed vociferous discussions on controversies related to Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the Vyapam scam. The house proceedings were disrupted twice and finally adjourned. The opposition demanded discussion on all issues and the immediate resignation of Sushma Swaraj who currently holds the external affairs portfolio. On the second day of the session, the opposition was seen wearing black bands and holding placards demanding Swaraj to resign. The session was adjourned till Monday.

On July 23, Rahul Gandhi, in a statement to the media said the Congress will not encourage any discussion until the resignation of the external affairs minister is confirmed. He further remarked that the Prime Minister’s credibility is on the decline as he refuses to listen to the voices of the common people.

Picture credit: indianexpress.com
Picture credit: indianexpress.com

The Prime Minister agreed to investigate the case of Swaraj but refused any discussion on Vasundara Raje and Shivnath Singh Chouhan, claiming that they are state matters.

However, the government rejected the immediate resignation of Sushma Swaraj. On the flipside, the government is now targeting Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party as a whole.

The Legislative Bills ignored?

Among such intense mud-splattering, the much needed collective effort to resolve disagreements over important bills is completely absent. The monsoon session has 10 pending Bills, 2 controversial Bills that are held up in committees, and more Bills for introduction at hand.

Before the commencement of the session, the Prime Minister had said to that he hoped for the smooth functioning of Parliament and collective effort to resolve the controversies over the Land Acquisition Bill. However, the Congress-led opposition has paralyzed the session over Lalit Modi and other BJP related controversies leading to stagnating discussions over important Bills.

Bills like the Mental Healthcare Bill (2013), Child Labour (protection and regulation) Amendment bill (2013), Prevention of Corruption (2013), and Juvenile Justice (2015) are just a few among the pending Bills that were to be discussed during the session. The monsoon session also had plans to introduce Bills like the Consumer Protection Amendment Bill (2015) and the Road Transport and Safety Bill (2015) among others. However, the highlight remains on the debatable Bills that have been held up in committees for years now, namely the Land Acquisition Bill and the Goods and Sales Tax Bills.

The Prime Minister was insistent on moving forward with the controversial Land Bill. However, the Samajwadi Party has expressed grievances with the amendments made to the bill. “A solution is possible only if the government withdraws amendments.” Samajwadi party’s Rajgopal Yadav said to the media.

A Joint Committee of the Parliament under BJP MP SS Ahluwahlia is looking into the Land Acquisition Bill and has asked for an extension of two weeks to finalize reports. The report of the committee is due for August 3 and debate on the matter till then is unlikely. In case, a consensus is not reached, the government will have to settle with an ordinance once again.

However, BJP leaders are of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with repeating ordinances. They cited examples of ordinances used twice or more by UPA government like the Securities Laws ordinance among others to support their stance.

Picture credit: hindustantimes.com
Picture credit: hindustantimes.com

Similarly, it is likely that the Goods and Sales Tax Bill will also miss its deadline of 2016 because of the face-off in Parliament. The GST Bill remains a key reform Bill, aiming for a unified national trade market. This Bill can dramatically alter the country’s tax administration by replacing a string of levies with a single tax. This is a key constituent of the government’s reform agenda.

However, after the Bill is passed, it will have to be ratified by 29 states in the same way. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh while disclosing his reservations about the GST, after the first day in session, said that the congress has no intentions of cooperating with the ruling government. “So what if we miss the GST bill? During the UPA we missed the GST twice. To us GST is good and simple tax.”

With the government and opposition continuously challenging each other, the monsoon session of the parliament has in reality become the battleground of politicians. What is being ignored are the discussions related to Bills and news of progress in this field had remained scarce. With the parliament resuming on Monday, a continuation of political chaos is expected. However, the progress that could be made regarding legislative bills still remains doubtful.

 

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS