The government on Sunday convened an all-party meeting a day before the beginning of the Parliament’s Winter Session. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the representatives of various parties that the government would work together with them on pending bills and policy issues. The meeting was attended by 27 parties.
The Opposition, meanwhile, raised the concern of the detention of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who is a member of the Lok Sabha. They demanded that Abdullah be allowed to attend the session, but the government did not give a definite response, unidentified officials told PTI.
“How can a parliamentarian be detained illegally?” Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, told reporters after the meeting. “He [Farooq Abdullah] should be allowed to attend Parliament.”
National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi said the government was under constitutional obligation to ensure Abdullah’s participation in the Parliament session. Azad also said MPs have in the past been allowed to attend Parliament even if their cases are being heard, and so Congress MP P Chidambaram, who is in the Tihar jail, should also be allowed to attend, ANI reported.
Abdullah, along with two other former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, were detained after the Centre stripped the erstwhile state of its special status in August. Farooq Abdullah has been charged under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain a person for six months without trial. The Centre has repeatedly claimed the leaders were in detention as a precautionary measure.
‘Discuss and debate’
According to a press statement issued after the meeting, Modi told political parties that the government would work with them constructively to frame policy solutions for concerns related to the environment, the economy and agriculture, as well as the rights of women, youth and the less privileged sections of society.
The Opposition demanded discussions on the economic slowdown, unemployment and farm distress during the session, Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
Modi said at the meeting that the most important job of the House was to discuss and debate and expressed hope that the Winter Session would be as productive as the previous session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters.
The prime minister noted that this sitting would be the Rajya Sabha’s 250th session.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla had also held a meeting with all parties on Saturday. He had urged them to ensure that the House functions smoothly despite debates and disagreements.
The Winter Session will conclude on December 13.
Meanwhile, Joshi said that Shiv Sena MPs will now sit in the Opposition as the party has left the National Democratic Alliance after a power tussle with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra following the Assembly elections last month. “They are trying to work with Congress, so naturally, they have opted to sit in opposition and we’ve agreed to that,” Joshi said, according to ANI.