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To debate or disrupt? That’s the question for Congress as Parliament resumes

Fresh showdown between government and opposition likely when Parliament reconvenes on Wednesday after a four-day break, with demonetisation and an alleged scam involving Union minister Kiren Rijiju casting a fresh shadow on the winter session.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2016 10:31 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Opposition leaders protest to observe a 'Black Day' against demonetisation at Parliament House in New Delhi.
Opposition leaders protest to observe a 'Black Day' against demonetisation at Parliament House in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

The government is expected to face a fresh opposition onslaught when Parliament reconvenes on Wednesday with the Congress sharpening its attack over demonetisation and an alleged corruption scandal involving junior home minister Kiren Rijiju.

With just three days remaining in the winter session, the Rijiju episode has cast a fresh shadow over the possibility of any business being transacted in both houses.

Bracing for a fresh showdown, both the BJP and Congress issued whips on Tuesday asking their members to be present for the remainder of the session.

The opposition party has issued the whip amid concerns the ruling side would rake up the AgustaWestland helicopter issue to target its top brass to “divert attention from hardships facing people due to demonetisation”, sources said.

Leaders of opposition parties will hold a meeting in the morning to decide their strategy in the House.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also meet key ministers to decide their strategy.

Sources said the Congress is undecided on whether to allow Parliament to function to enable Rahul Gandhi to speak on demonetisation or disrupt the proceedings over the alleged involvement of Rijiju in a Rs 450 crore power scam in Arunachal Pradesh.

Read More: Govt braces for trouble in Parliament as bank queues returned after long weekend

The broad thinking in the Congress is to corner the BJP-led NDA government on Rijiju and also let the Lok Sabha function briefly for Gandhi to speak on Modi’s November 8 move to ban Rs 1000 and Rs 500 banknotes. On Friday, Congress changed its stand and expressed readiness for a debate without a vote.

Gandhi has declared that there will be an earthquake if the government allows him to speak in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala sounded a warning on Tuesday, saying his party will vociferously raise the Arunachal Pradesh corruption issue.

But the government is unlikely to allow Gandhi to have a free run during the debate on demonetisation.

BJP members, in a role reversal, disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha on Friday when Gandhi came prepared for a speech.

Read More: In Parliament and Supreme Court, questions over demonetisation singe govt

Finance minister Arun Jaitley asked Congress and other rival parties to start a debate on demonetisation.

Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu said the Prime Minister will be present in Parliament for the three remaining days and can participate in proceedings of either of the House depending on the need.

The winter session, which began on November 16, is scheduled to conclude on Friday, with indications that it could be a virtual washout.

Ever since the session began, the Lok Sabha has managed to conduct only two legislative actions -- passage of Income Tax amendment bill and approval of supplementary demand for grants -- that too amid din and without much debate.

The Rajya Sabha functioned normally only on the first day of the session when a debate on demonetisation was initiated and held for about 5 hours.

(With agency inputs)