Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday, Feb 22, accused BJP of unleashing its “divisive agenda by generating a wholly unwarranted debate on patriotism and nationalism” and said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that parliament functions.
Gandhi’s strong attack on the government came at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) here ahead of the budget session of parliament that begins on Tuesday, Feb 23.
“To cover up its many failures, the ruling establishment has once again unleashed its divisive agenda by generating a wholly unwarranted debate on patriotism and nationalism. Simply put, democratic and liberal value are under severe assault. The freedom to think and speak are being drastically curtailed,” Gandhi said.
Meanwhile PM Modi said “some people” were not able to digest the fact that a “chai wala” (tea seller) has become the Prime Minister and hence were conspiring all the time to bring him down.
“You would have seen in the recent past, there is attack on me all the time. Some people are continuously at it. They are not able to digest how Modi became the Prime Minister, how a ‘chai wala’ became the Prime Minister, they cannot swallow it,” a combative Modi said addressing a farmers’ rally in Odisha.
Without naming anybody or any specific instance, he said he had taken some steps because of which “these people are facing problems”.
Is Another Stormy Parliament Session in Store for bjp?
Opposition parties led by the Congress have promised to cooperate with the government in passing Bills if issues that they want to raise are first discussed thoroughly in the Budget session of Parliament that begins Feb 23.
The session is set to be stormy from right after the President’s Address to both Houses on Tuesday morning, with the opposition saying it favours a “disruption-free session,” but also making it clear it that it will not pause for breath as it attacks the government on issues like the JNU controversy, the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad last month, protests for reservation in Haryana and the Pathankot terror attack.
“Contrary to what the government has been saying, let me once and for all make it absolutely clear — we want parliament to function, to legislate.
“The problem is not with us, it is with the government which refuses to accept that the democratic right of the Opposition is to raise burning public issues.
“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that parliament functions,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Making a veiled reference to the controversies surrounding Jawaharlal Nehru University, the suicide of a Dalit youth in Hyderabad university and the violence in a Delhi court ahead of proceedings concerning JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Gandhi said the CWC meeting took place in a “disturbing background” to take stock of what was happening on various fronts.
She said universities were places where young people must have the fullest freedom to express themselves.
The opposition says debate on these issues must precede bringing legislation over which there are differences – like the Goods and Services Tax bill which is crucial to the government’s reforms plans. Those Bills it suggested at a meeting of all parties today, can be deferred to the second half of the budget session, which will see a recess this year of over a month.
The government asserted that it is as eager to discuss issues like the controversy over an event at the prestigious JNU or the Jawaharlal Nehru University earlier this month where anti-India slogans were raised and urged Parliament to thoroughly discuss their causes and consequences and show the way forward.
“The government is committed to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit and firmly believes in peace, unity and integration of the nation as the key operational principles for delivering on the development promised to the people,” said Mr Naidu, in a clear indication that the government will counter the opposition’s attack over JNU students being charged with sedition with the nationalism argument that ruling party BJP has used.
The Congress, the Left and others have pushed for a debate on JNU on Wednesday, the second day of the session. The government said it is willing to consider that. If that happens, a motion of thanks to the President’s address may take place only around March 1, after the rail budget, economic survey and the union Budget, which is scheduled for Monday, February 29.
Regional parties like the Akali Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Janata Dal (United) have urged the Congress to let the houses function, allowing them as to raise issues critical to them. The last several parliament sessions have been washed out by opposition protests.