Modi govt, opposition all set to spar as 18th Lok Sabha opens today | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Modi govt, opposition all set to spar as 18th Lok Sabha opens today

Jun 24, 2024 06:48 AM IST

The 18th Lok Sabha opens with clashes expected between government and Opposition over irregularities in exams. Session to address key issues and power balance.

The 18th Lok Sabha will open on Monday morning as the inaugural special session of Parliament commences under a shadow with the government and the Opposition likely to clash over a string of issues, foremost among them the irregularities dogging some of India’s premier examinations.

The session is likely to set the stage for the recalibration of the balance of power between the government and the Opposition(File Photo)(HT_PRINT)
The session is likely to set the stage for the recalibration of the balance of power between the government and the Opposition(File Photo)(HT_PRINT)

President Droupadi Murmu will administer the oath to Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker Bhartruhari Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha, a development that is expected to spark a face-off between the government and the Opposition. Then, all newly elected members of the Lower House including Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take oath.

First session of 18th Lok Sabha to begin tomorrow; Oppn to raise paper leak issue

The two-day oath ceremony will be followed by the election to pick the Lok Sabha Speaker on June 26 and President Murmu’s address to the joint sitting of both houses on June 27. The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha will also be picked for the first time in a decade. The session will conclude on July 3 and reassemble for the monsoon sitting on July 22.

The session is likely to set the stage for the recalibration of the balance of power between the government and the Opposition, which will try to corner the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on issues such as price rise, food inflation, deaths on account of an unprecedented heatwave and the recent instances of irregularities in the conduct of examinations that have made millions of students restive and cast a shadow on the efficacy of institutions mandated to conduct examinations.

On Friday, the CSIR-UGC-NET examination, conducted for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF), lectureship (LS) and assistant professor posts in college and universities was cancelled by the National Testing Agency (NTA). A day later, the National Board of Examinations (NBE) deferred the National Eligibility Entrance Test, Postgraduate (NEET-PG) exam a day before it was scheduled.

For weeks, protests have swept across India as thousands of students hit the streets amid allegations of question paper leaks, inflated marking and arbitrary allowance of grace marks, even as opposition parties called for a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the allegations. The Supreme Court is set to hear a raft of petitions on the issue on July 8.

Leaders of the Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Trinamool Congress that are part of the INDIA bloc have already indicated that they will be raising the issue that has affected a total of 3.7 million students.

In a post on X on Sunday, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said, “In the NEET Scam, the buck stops at the doorstep of the top echelons of the Modi Govt. Shuffling the bureaucrats is no solution to the endemic problem in the Education system rotted by the BJP. NTA was projected to be an autonomous body, but in reality, was made to serve the devious interests of the BJP/RSS.”

Differences have also cropped up between the government and the Opposition on the selection of the pro-tem speaker, after the appointment of seven-term lawmaker Bhartruhari Mahtab who has switched sides from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Parliamentary affairs minister Kiren Rijiju’s clarification that the government has stuck to the rules of appointing the longest-serving member with consecutive terms, has failed to cut ice with the Opposition that backs eight-term Congress MP K Suresh.

Rijiju on Friday said Mahtab has had seven uninterrupted terms as Lok Sabha member, making him eligible for the post, while Suresh lost elections in 1998 and 2004.

Three Opposition leaders, TR Baalu of the DMK, K Suresh of the Congress and Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress, who are in the panel to assist the pro-tem Speaker, have indicated that they may not perform their duties as a mark of protest.

The Lok Sabha proceedings will begin with the oath-taking ceremony by Modi, the Leader of the House, followed by the panel of chairpersons appointed by the President to assist the pro-tem Speaker.

As per functionaries aware of the details, the election to pick the Lok Sabha Speaker will be held on Wednesday, followed by Modi introducing his council of ministers to the House.

In 2021, the Opposition had prevented the PM from introducing the ministers inducted after a reshuffle. On the first day of Parliament’s monsoon session, the Opposition began raising slogans on the rising prices of fuel and prevented the customary introduction of the ministers. This was not the first time such an event unfolded in Parliament. In 2004, then PM Manmohan Singh was not allowed to introduce the ministers in his Cabinet in Parliament after the BJP protested the inclusion of Mohammed Taslimuddin and Lalu Prasad in the council of ministers.

Anticipating the Opposition’s aggressive stance, the government is prepared with its strategy, said a party leader. “We have reached out to them (Opposition). Last week minister Rijiju met the Congress President (Kharge) and expressed hope that the two sides will work together...” said the leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Sunday the minister met TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay. In a post on ‘X’ he said, “Met Sudip Bandyopadhyay Ji leader of All India Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party. Sudip da has long standing Parliamentary career and he is known for his calm and dignified conduct in the Parliament. 18th Lok Sabha will hugely benefit from his experiences.”

The BJP, which won 240 of the Lok Sabha’s 543 seats during the general elections, had to fall back on its allies to form the government. This was in contrast to the party’s performance in 2014 and 2019 polls, when it stormed to power with 272 and 303 MPs respectively. However, its alliance partners were accommodated in the Union council of ministers.

Owing to a resurgent opposition that had grown in strength the BJP is expected to face challenges in the passage of bills that will be tabled in the course of the 18th Lok Sabha. The party is also unlikely to get support from parties such as the BJD and the YSRCP that were not part of the NDA but supported the government in the previous terms, helping in the passage of crucial bills such as outlawing triple talaq and the abrogation of Article 370.

Although allies such as the Janata Dal United, the Telugu Desam Party and 12 others that comprise the NDA have assured the BJP of unconditional support, there is a lingering worry within the party over their response to the issue of irregularities in conducting examinations.

MPs with agricultural background a common theme in 18th Lok Sabha

“There is pressure on the party in Bihar...but all discussions and decisions will be taken as partners,” said a JD(U) leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The allies are also expected to raise issues pertaining to their respective states and constituencies. Both the JD(U) and TDP have 28 lawmakers between them and played a key role in helping the BJP form government at the centre for the third time. The two parties have been upfront about their demands for financial assistance for their respective states.

TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has instructed his MPs to focus on raising issues pertinent to the state, including securing funds for the capital city of Amaravati and the Polavaram project. Bihar lawmakers too will raise the issue of financial aid and infrastructure support for development projects and job creation, said the JD-U leader quoted above.

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