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Your words matter, not numbers, PM tells Opposition

The BJP led NDA has 353 MPs in the lower house of Parliament that has a total strength of 545. The BJP alone has 302 MPs, while the second largest party in the house, the Congress has 52 MPs.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2019 22:46 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
parliament session day 1,parliament session first day,day 1 of parliament session
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media on the first day of new parliament session in New Delhi on Monday.(Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to opposition parties on the first day of the 17th Lok Sabha’s opening session on Monday, saying they need not “bother about their numbers” as their every word and idea was “valuable” to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which secured a massive verdict in this summer’s Lok Sabha elections.

In Parliament’s Budget session, which began on Monday and will conclude on July 26, the NDA government is set to push crucial legislations, including a bill that seeks to criminalise the practice of instant divorce among Muslims.

A day before the session began with the oath-taking of MPs, Modi chaired an all-party meet and urged floor leaders of all parties to ensure smooth proceedings in the House.

On Monday, he called upon MPs across party lines to usher in new energy and conviction and said that whenever Parliament functioned well, good decisions were taken in the nation’s interest.

“The presence of a strong and active Opposition is an inevitable condition of democracy. I hope that the opposition parties stop worrying about their number [of MPs]. People of the country have given them the number. But for us, their every word, their every idea will be important. And when we sit in the House as MPs, then the spirit of impartiality is more important than being in power or in Opposition,” Modi said outside the Parliament building shortly before the inaugural session.

The Prime Minister called for consensus to ensure that the session was productive and added that he hoped the Opposition “will speak actively and participate in House proceedings”. He said the government believed in the principle of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’. “…if there is strong logic in the criticism of the government, then it empowers the democracy,” he added.

The NDA won 353 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha in the general elections while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) secured 91 seats, with the Congress winning 52 of them.

Watch | ‘Vigilant opposition crucial,’ PM Modi ahead of Parliament inaugural session

Reacting to Modi’s remarks, the Congress said his government used Parliament as a “rubber stamp” during its previous term. “Legislation through ordinance is a very unhealthy practice in a democracy. It should only be used in extreme cases where there is an emergency requirement otherwise the due processes of lawmaking must to be followed by the government in office,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

“We will now wait for the Prime Minister’s assurance in this regard and whether the practice that was followed in the last five years is reversed, because in the last five years what we have seen is disrespect to Parliament, where the bills were brought by the government and because of its brute majority in the Lok Sabha, Parliament was treated as a rubber stamp,” he added.

The first two days of the Budget session are being devoted to oath-taking by members of the 17th Lok Sabha. The election for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha will be held on June 19 followed by a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on June 20, when President Ram Nath Kovind will deliver an address. PM Modi will host a dinner for all MPs on Thursday after the joint session for the President’s address.

As the Lok Sabha assembled on Monday morning, the PM stood up amid applause and chants of “Modi, Modi” to take oath as a member. He was followed by defence minister Rajnath Singh and home minister Amit Shah as 320 newly elected MPs took oath, with pro tem Speaker Virendra Kumar administering the proceedings.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who lost in his traditional stronghold of Amethi but won the parliamentary election from Kerala’s Wayanad, also took oath amid cheers from the opposition benches.

In 2014, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi took oath ahead of many other MPs as she and veteran BJP leader LK Advani were given special slots due to their seniority and political stature. This time, however, Sonia Gandhi’s turn will come on Tuesday, when other MPs from Uttar Pradesh take oath.

When Babul Supriyo and Debasree Chaudhuri walked up to the well of the House to take oath, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members chanted “Jai Shri Ram”. The BJP and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee were involved in a stand-off during the Lok Sabha elections, with videos showing the West Bengal chief minister getting irked over similar chants.

Apart from the contentious triple talaq bill, which was passed in the 16th Lok Sabha but lapsed in the Rajya Sabha amid protests by the Congress and other opposition parties, other legislations set to be tabled in Parliament include a bill to allow the voluntary use of Aadhaar as an identity proof. The Union Budget will be presented on July 5.

First Published: Jun 17, 2019 10:41 IST