Prime Minister Narendra Modi, re-elected with a huge mandate in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha elections, held his first all-party meeting ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament that begins on Monday. An all-party meeting is customary ahead of a Parliament session to ensure its smooth functioning.

After the meeting, Modi thanked all the leaders for “their valuable suggestions”. “We had a fruitful all-party meeting today, the first one after the election results and before the start of the Monsoon Session,” he said on Twitter. “Thankful to the leaders for their valuable suggestions. We all agreed on the smooth running of Parliament so that we can fulfil people’s aspirations.”

Modi is likely to have sought the cooperation of all parties to pass key bills in the Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have a majority. The Union Budget for the current financial year will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on July 5 and Parliament will continue till July 26.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi and leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajya Sabha Thawar Chand Gehlot were among those present at the meeting, ANI reported.

Joshi said the prime minister has called for a meeting of all presidents of parties represented in the Parliament on June 19, reported ANI. “He would like to discuss important issues including One Nation, One Election and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.” Modi has also called a meeting of all Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs on June 20.

Joshi, while quoting the prime minister, said there were several new faces in the Parliament and “new thoughts should come with them”.

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, V Vijayasai Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, Derek O’Brien of All India Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah of National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party’s Supriya Sule, Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (Sonelal), Sanjay Singh of Aam Aadmi Party Jayadev Galla of Telugu Desam Party also attended the meeting.

After the all-party meeting, National Democratic Alliance leaders will meet to discuss strategies for the upcoming session. A BJP parliamentary party executive committee meeting is also scheduled to be held on Sunday evening.

In the Lok Sabha, the National Democratic Alliance has a majority with 353 members out of the 545 seats. But it has only 102 members in the 245-member upper house which might affect the passing of key bills, like the Triple Talaq Bill and Aadhar another Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019 which will be introduced in this session.

Opposition raises concerns

The Congress raised concerns like unemployment, farmers distress, drought, and press freedom and called for Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir to be held soon at the meeting, PTI reported. The party also raised the independence of institutions and “weakening of federalism” during the meeting.

“We congratulated the government,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said. “But with that we also told them that this is a fight of ideologies, it was a fight of ideologies and it will remain a fight of ideologies.” Azad said the Congress is the foundation of secular forces and will always work to keep that spirit alive whether it is in government or in opposition.

The Trinamool Congress raised the matter of electoral reforms, including state funding of elections and paper ballots. It also flagged Opposition’s concerns over the government’s use of ordinances, saying this should be used only as an “emergency” tool. “Unfortunately, in the 16th Lok Sabha it was blatantly overused,” TMC leader Sandip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien said. “Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years.”