Sumitra Mahajan at the all-party meeting in Parliament. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, July 5: Most parties today pressed for a discussion on rising prices of essential commodities in the Parliament session beginning on Monday even as the government sought to keep the focus on the general and rail budgets.
At a meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Opposition parties expressed concern at the spiralling prices and wanted a thorough discussion, claiming the government had contributed to the people’s burden by raising train fares and freight charges. The session ends on August 14 and the budgets have to be passed before that.
Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu did not give any commitment on a price debate, though he said: “We will take up the general budget, railway budget and also be willing to discuss any issue of national importance... the government will also make a statement on the situation of Indians in Iraq.”
Naidu appealed to the Opposition to co-operate in ensuring the decorum and dignity of Parliament and the smooth conduct of business. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP veteran L.K. Advani were not present at the meeting but attended the lunch that followed. Sources said the Trinamul Congress took the lead in articulating the Opposition’s concerns though Congress representatives were also present.
The leader of Opposition issue was not raised at the meeting as its specific agenda was the business in Parliament. But outside, Congress leaders continued to press for LoP status, with senior leader Digvijaya Singh saying rules should be changed if they did not ensure the existence of the LoP, which was a vital post in a parliamentary democracy.
Trinamul leader Kalyan Banerjee said the first issue that should be taken up after the general and rail budgets were presented was price rise and the situation caused by the hikes in rail fare and freight charges.
The government also came in for criticism on federalism. “Though the government is saying on the floor of the House that they have great respect for federalism, in essence and effect we don’t see the sign of such federalism,” Banerjee said, citing letters by various ministers to the states.
He also raised the issue of Trinamul not being given a room corresponding to its strength in Parliament and demanded that the principle of allotment of time for discussion on the basis of strength of parties should also be applied in granting office space.
The Speaker said after the meeting: “The session will have 28 sittings and 168 working hours. Since the standing committees for various ministries are yet to be constituted, the demands for grants for various ministries will be passed by both Houses by July 31 after discussion in Parliament instead of the committees.”
The Speaker said the meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere, adding: “The government is willing to give full time to discuss any issue. They are ready to discuss every issue. Different suggestions have come and they will be decided after the meeting of the business advisory committee.”
She also said Lok Sabha proceedings this session would have a new feature — a picture of the MP who was speaking would be shown on a screen, so all members seated anywhere could see the person.
The government intends to bring bills to replace the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, and the ordinance with respect to Polavaram project under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014.
The TRAI (amendment) ordinance cleared on May 28 ensured the government could appoint Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister. The AP ordinance was promulgated on May 29, ahead of the official division of the state on June 2.