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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Three ministers meet Sonia Gandhi ahead of Lok Sabha

This is the second time in the NDA regime when ministers went to 10 Janpath, Gandhi’s official residence, in a bid to ensure a fruitful session amid souring relations between the government and the Opposition.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2019 07:37 IST
Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi with Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, MoS Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal and Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar, during a meeting at the former's residence, in New Delhi, Friday, June 7, 2019.
Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi with Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, MoS Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal and Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar, during a meeting at the former's residence, in New Delhi, Friday, June 7, 2019. (PTI)
         

Three ministers of the Narendra Modi government met Congress parliamentary party chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday ahead of the inaugural session of the 17th Lok Sabha that starts on June 17, signalling its intent to walk the extra mile to take the Opposition on board.

Agriculture and rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi and his minister of state Arjun Ram Meghwal met Gandhi at her residence on Friday afternoon.

This is the second time in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime when ministers went to 10 Janpath, Gandhi’s official residence, in a bid to ensure a fruitful session amid souring relations between the government and the Opposition.

“Our meeting with Sonia Gandhi was very cordial. We sought her cooperation for the smooth functioning of Parliament. She said they (opposition) also need cooperation from treasury benches. I told her that the government has always been ready to cooperate,” Joshi said after the meeting.

The 40-day long budget session of the Lok Sabha will run from June 17 till July 27.

In the recent national election, the NDA improved its tally to 353 seats while the Congress, the principal Opposition party, got 52 seats. The ruling side, however, continues to need additional support to pass key bills in the Upper House, where the government is still in minority.

A working equation between the treasury and the Opposition benches helps the House run smoothly and in the passage of key bills. In the last Lok Sabha, frequent disruptions had marred the proceedings and delayed the passage of many pieces of legislation. The Opposition too, could not raise some of its pet issues on the floor of the House.

According to a minister present in the meeting, the ministers told Gandhi that the government wants to listen to the Opposition’s voice and also seek its cooperation to run the House in order—something that often eluded Parliament sessions in the last five years. Gandhi emphasised that the Congress wants the House to run in order and the sessions should be fruitful but they (the opposition) should also be allowed to speak and the government should not bulldoze its legislative agenda through.

The three ministers had also reached out to other Opposition leaders and that process will continue, hinted a senior BJP minister. On the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, Tomar and Joshi went to meet Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Trinamool Congress floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra and others. “We will talk to other floor leaders as well,” said a minister on condition of anonymity.

“We are open to walking the extra mile to meet Opposition leaders because we want to House to run in a productive manner. We will not leave any stone unturned to ensure the House doesn’t face disruptions and both the voice of the government and the Opposition is heard. There are many progressive legislation in the pipeline and we want the Opposition’s help to clear them,” said one of the ministers who met Gandhi.

When asked if they would also like to have a similar meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, a senior minister pointed out they are only reaching out to the floor leaders of the Opposition parties. “So, at this point, there is no plan to meet Rahul Gandhi...”

In January 2016, Venkaiah Naidu, then parliamentary affairs minister, reached out to Sonia Gandhi in a bid to end the logjam over the Goods and Services Tax bill. Following Naidu’s visit, a meeting was organised at the Prime Minister’s House at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg in which Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh came to discuss the GST issue with PM Narendra Modi, then finance minister Arun Jaitley and then home minister Rajnath Singh. The GST bill was passed in August that year.