All-Party Meet: Oppn says address anti-CAA stir, PM calls for talks on economy

Pradeep Kaushal, Abantika Ghosh
All party meet, PM Modi on All party meet, CAA protests, citizenship act, Congress om CAA, union budget 2020, nirmala sitharaman, Indian express

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chair all-party meeting ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express Photo: Anil Sharma)

Charging the government with arrogance, Opposition leaders on Wednesday flagged the issue of anti-CAA protests during an all-party meeting ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament and called upon the government to reach out to the people holding agitations in many parts of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to sources, told the leaders: “Most of the members have asked for discussion on the economic situation concerning the country. I welcome this and we need to discuss the economic issues as suggested by you all. We should focus on how we can turn the global scenario in favour of India.”

He is also learnt to have said, “In this session, and in the beginning of the new year, if we can give a proper direction to the country’s economy, it would be in the best interest of the country.” Regarding other issues raised by opposition parties, Modi is learnt to have said that all of them should be discussed.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Budget on Saturday, and the session concludes on April 3 with a recess in between — from February 12 to March 1.

The pre-Budget meeting was attended by leaders of 26 parties. The Prime Minister was assisted by his ministerial colleagues Rajnath Singh, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Ram Vilas Paswan, Pralhad Joshi, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Ramdas Athawale.

Among others in the meeting were Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Adhhir Ranjan Chowhdury (all Congress), T R Baalu (DMK), Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien (TMC) Nama Nageswara Rao (TRS), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Pinaki Misra (BJD), Ritesh Pandey (BSP), Supriya Sule (NCP), Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (SAD), and Manoj Jha (RJD).

Azad told the media after the meeting that leaders of the other parties ought immediate release of former J&K CM and Lok Sabha MP Farooq Abdullah so that he could attend the session. Azad said the government was keen on just the passage of its Bills.


Many Bills pending before Parliament

The Budget Session of Parliament is focussed mainly on financial business and the passage of Motion of Thanks for the President’s Address. But with more than 40 Bills pending before Parliament, some of them may be passed in the coming session. These include Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019; Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019; Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019; Industrial Relations Code, 2019; and Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, 2019.

“We brought the government’s attention to these (anti-CAA) protests. The government has displayed arrogance by not reaching out to the protestors to hear their concerns,” he said.

Dhindsa, who is at loggerheads with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, was among those who raised the issue of CAA protests. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, he said, was based on religious discrimination and is unacceptable. Modi happened to have just walked in when Dhindsa made his point.

The CAA issue was raised also by TMC and SP. TMC’s Bandopadhyay said Congress’s numbers in Lok Sabha has come down from 414 at one time to 44 now, with the “1 dropping off (the figure)”. Similarly, he said, the “zero would drop off BJP’s 303” and the party would be reduced to 33 if it continues with its present policy of “dividing people”. SP’s Ram Gopal accused the government of “squandering the mandate” of 33 per cent voters of the country.

Parties from the Northeast, many of them NDA allies, demanded that their region be kept out of the NRC’s ambit.

Rejecting the allegation that the government is acting arrogant, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told the media that the CAA was passed by Parliament after a long discussion. Instead, he asked Opposition parties to introspect their own role in these protests.

RJD leader Manoj Jha accused the “new BJP” of not understanding the difference between a majority and majoritarianism. The BJD stated that federalism is non-negotiable and asked the government to clear Odisha’s proposal for the revival of Vidhan Parishad at the earliest.