The opposition’s demand for discussion on issues such as Manipur and price rise during the Monsoon Session is ‘non-negotiable’, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday, asserting that the government must shun its “my way or the highway” approach and follow a middle path for smooth functioning of Parliament.
The Congress general secretary in-charge communications also said his party will oppose the bill that would be brought in to replace the Delhi ordinance, which he alleged “curtails constitutional rights and responsibilities of the elected government”.
In an interview with PTI, Ramesh said opposition parties are going into the Monsoon Session, starting Thursday, with a positive mindset but asserted that the primary responsibility of getting Parliament to function is that of the government of the day. The session is scheduled to end on August 11.
In a parliamentary democracy, the Opposition must have its say and the government will have its way, he said.
During a Parliament session, all opposition parties come together and decide the strategy, and after the Bengaluru meeting, their enthusiasm has increased, the Congress leader said.
“A new enthusiasm has come, a new name has been found. We are not the opposition party, we are the ‘India Party’ now,” he said.
Asked if it will be the INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) versus the National Democratic Alliance in Parliament session also, Ramesh said, “Every morning (during Parliament sessions) all opposition parties meet in the chamber of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. So every session we coordinate our strategy, and this session is not going to be any different.”
“Yesterday (Wednesday), we had a meeting of 26 parties that make up the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) — they all agreed… on the issues that are going to be taken up in Parliament. Manipur is number one. Hundreds of people have been killed, thousands have been displaced, lakhs are living in relief camps, the prime minster is silent, the home minister (Amit Shah) has been ineffective, the chief minister (N Biren Singh) has been a disaster, the double engine government has completely destroyed Manipur,” he said.
The Congress has been seeking a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Manipur issue, which is facing ethnic violence since May 3 and has seen many fatalities.
Attacking the prime minister over the Manipur issue, Ramesh said he is taking a meeting on the eight cheetah deaths but there is no expression of concern from him on the situation in the northeastern state.
Ramesh stressed that the prime minister should participate in the debate on Manipur.
“We call ourselves the mother of democracy, what sort of mother of democracy we have when the prime minister is not speaking, when he is not even attending (Parliament), when issues of public concern are not allowed to be raised, when issues of public concern are not being allowed to be raised, when remarks are being expunged,” the Congress leader said.
He said the other issues on which the Opposition wants a discussion on in Parliament include the “continued assault on democratically-elected state governments, directly and through governors and lieutenant governors, the use of Enforcement Directorate and CBI to break politicial parties and the politics of vendetta”.
Continued price rise of essential commodities, growing joblessness, “the clean chit” given to China, the demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Adani matter, “will continue to be on the agenda”, he said.
The Congress will oppose the amendments to the Forest Conservation Act and the Biological Diversity Act, Ramesh said, stressing that those are terrible amendments which will “destroy forests that are so very essential for ecological and other purposes”.
“We will oppose of course the Delhi ordinance which curtails constitutional rights and responsibilities of the elected government,” he said.
“Wherever bills need to be supported like the bills to expand the list of scheduled tribes in Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, we will support them. We are going in with a positive mindset, we want Parliament to function but the primary responsibility of getting Parliament to function is that of the government of the day,” he said.
“So I am hopeful but parties must be allowed to raise issues, there must be a debate and discussion,” Ramesh said.
Asked about the Opposition’s demand for a debate on Manipur, Ramesh said, “That is a non-negotiable demand. Prime Minister Modi has been silent, it is unprecedented…it is a sensitive state and what has happened is shocking and brutal and a complete failure of governance of double engine governance.”
“Our demand (for discussion on Manipur) is non-negotiable. Our demand for JPC into Modani scam is non-negotiable, our demand for discussion on price rise is non-negotiable, our demand for a discussion on assaults on the federal structure of the constitution (is non-negotiable),” he said.
On the forthcoming parliamentary session, he said there are heavy clouds over Delhi and Parliament is no exception.
“The policy of this government and the policy of this prime minister is its my way or the highway. Can’t be my way or the highway. You have to have a compromise, you have to have a middle path. We compromise, the government compromises, we have a discussion,” he said.
He recalled how during Manmohan Singh’s prime ministership there was discussion on all issues. “I can recall that during Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s prime ministership, during Narasimha Rao’s prime ministership, there was a debate on whatever issue by ruling party or the opposition,” Ramesh added.
He claimed that the approach taken by the government is “take it or leave it”.
“Our approach is we will cooperate with you but the primary responsibility for ensuring the functioning of the House is yours, it is not ours. The job of the opposition is to raise issues of public concern and we are raising issues of public concern,” Ramesh asserted.
He stressed that the Opposition does not come with a negative mindset.
“I turn it around and say the government comes with a dictatorial mindset,” the Congress leader added.
On whether a united INDIA opposition bloc will be seen in Parliament on the issue of Delhi ordinance, Ramesh said, “Judega Bharat, Jeetega India“.
The Centre had on May 19 promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, to create an authority for transfer and posting of Group-A officers in Delhi.
The Aam Aadmi Party government has termed it as a “deception” with the Supreme Court verdict on control of services.
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