Budget Session: 17 Opposition parties to boycott President's address
As many as 17 Opposition parties have decided to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind's address to both Houses of Parliament, indicating that the Budget Session will be replete with confrontations. The Opposition parties will not participate in the address to show their disappointment toward three farm reforms that have triggered a massive protest. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi urged parties to reconsider their decision.
The Budget Session that begins today is the first time parliamentarians will meet after the Monsoon Session, which was cut short over coronavirus concerns. It was in the last session that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre got the three laws passed. The farm laws intend to free growers from the shackles of middlemen, but farmers believe these changes will adversely affect their livelihoods.
To note, Congress is leading the boycott drive. Parties like Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), and All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) are also part of it. With Congress's chief whip in Lok Sabha K Suresh by his side, senior party member Ghulam Nabi Azad informed on Thursday about the Opposition's plans.
The Opposition parties mentioned the agitation of farmers, which began at Delhi's borders in November, in a joint statement. "Lakhs of farmers have been agitating at the gates of National capital of Delhi braving biting cold and heavy rain for the last 64 days for their rights and justice. Over 155 farmers have lost their lives, (sic)" the joint statement read, also adding that Centre responded with brute force.
Pointing out that the farmers' protest has largely been peaceful, the Opposition parties highlighted the violence on Republic Day. The incident was slammed and they went on to demand an impartial probe as it would reveal the Centre's "nefarious role in orchestrating those events." The constitutional validity of the laws and the manner in which they were passed was also mentioned.
The parties termed the Centre as "arrogant, adamant, and undemocratic in their response." "Shocked by this insensitivity of the Government, we, the following opposition political parties, reaffirming the collective demand for the repeal of the anti farmer laws and in solidarity with Indian farmers, have decided to boycott the President's address to both the Houses of Parliament on Friday, January 29, 2021, (sic)" read the statement.
After not being a part of this boycott drive earlier, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) revealed on Friday that it has also joined the club. "Bahujan Samaj Party to boycott president's address to joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament over Centre's stand on farmers' demand to repeal new agri laws and its dilly-dallying approach on matters of public interest, (sic)" said party chief Mayawati.
Urging political parties to not turn away from the traditional address, BJP's Joshi said the Centre was willing to discuss the laws. "The government is ready to discuss all issues threadbare and as much time as is required will be set aside when the business advisory committees of both Houses meet," he said. The Opposition parties are likely to demand the repeal of three laws.
The parties also plan to target the government over the coronavirus-battered economy and the Indo-China border conflict. To note, this will be the first time in recent history that the entire Opposition will boycott the President's address. Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla claimed that parliamentarians will have ample opportunities to raise issues in the Budget Session.
Like the Opposition, the government has also made plans for the Budget Session. It wants to replace four ordinances, namely the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020; the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance. 2020; the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, and the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
On a related note, the President's address will be unprecedented today. Respecting coronavirus-associated precautions, President Kovind will speak to parliamentarians seated in three different locations. 144 parliamentarians will be seated in the Central Hall and the remaining in chambers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A Rajya Sabha press release said Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and several Upper House members have taken the coronavirus test.