NDA softens for budget session, reaches out to Opposition

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2015 07:51 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday assured the Opposition of addressing all its concerns as his government sought support for the bills that will replace six ordinances, including the one that aims to overhaul the land law.

Parliament opens on Monday for what will be the first full budget session of the Modi government. The budget -- to be presented on February 28 -- will be closely watched for the economic path the government charts. The session is expected to be stormy, and will be a test of the NDA’s floor management skills with a heavy legislative agenda lined up.

“I can assure you that all the issues you have referred to will be discussed adequately and appropriately,” the PM told an all-party meet Sunday evening. Modi’s reach-out mission started hours earlier when parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu drove to the 10 Janpath residence of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the morning.

The Congress, however, remained non-committal, saying it couldn’t back bills that were “anti-people”. “We have some concerns about the land law amendments,” sources quoted Sonia as telling Naidu.

It was the first official engagement between the Modi government and the Congress president.

HT reported on February 20 that a senior Modi minister may meet Sonia to end the ordinance logjam, with the government planning to bring in the bills on Day 1 itself.

Farmers and social activists, led by Anna Hazare, are planning a sit-in against the land bill, which aims to make land acquisition easy for industry, to coincide with the opening day of the session.

While another contentious legislation — the insurance bill— wasn’t discussed, Sonia did tell Naidu that it would be “good” to have detailed discussion on other ordinances as well, sources said.

At the all-party meeting, Modi said it was the collective responsibility of leaders of all parties to ensure that the session ran smoothly. “…Hope we can collectively work for the benefit of common man,” he said.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who was also present during the Sonia-Naidu meeting, and party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, didn’t promise anything. The Congress parliamentary party had not met for the session, they said.

Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav said the land proposals were worse than what existed during the British time.

During the session, the focus should be on financial matters and “we must discuss the special category status for different states,” Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said.

The opposition leaders also demanded that the PM repeat on the floor of the House the remarks about the government’s commitment to religious tolerance and freedom.

The government aims to get Parliament’s nod for 44 bills during the session. The coal block auction, insurance and motor vehicles law amendment (e-rickshaw) bills will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The land bill will come up first in the Lok Sabha.

The government enjoys a brute majority in the Lok Sabha but in the Rajya Sabha it is outnumbered by the Opposition, whose support is critical for law-making.

Naidu, interestingly, said there was a broad consensus on “five out of six” ordinances, indicating the government’s willingness to negotiate a dilution of its land ordinance.

HT wrote on Sunday that the government may water down some clauses of the land bill, dubbed anti-farmer by opposition and various social groups.

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