Monsoon session to see fresh political slugfest
New Delhi: The countdown for the crucial monsoon session has begun.
On Monday, the Union government will once again engage the opposition, still struggling to find common cause, in another round of political jousting—among other things to decide who will be the next President of India.
While the government is riding the momentum of the successful rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) which economically unifies the country, the opposition on its part will be seeking to put the Treasury benches on the defensive particularly on contentious issues such as terror attacks, farm distress and lynching by self-appointed cow vigilantes.
The presidential poll is set to be contested between the nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Ram Nath Kovind, and opposition’s choice Meira Kumar. At the moment, Kovind has a comfortable lead over the former Lok Sabha speaker. Voting is on 17 July and results will be announced on 20 July.
While the opposition parties have already announced Gopalkrishna Gandhi as their vice-presidential candidate, the NDA is expected to meet over the weekend to finalize their nominee.
“The opposition parties are trying to make the presidential and vice-presidential elections an ideological war with the NDA. No matter how hard the opposition tries, both the elections have now become a mere formality as the NDA+ enjoys clear majority,” said a senior NDA leader requesting anonymity.
The upcoming polls as well as the monsoon session of Parliament will be a key test for unity in the opposition which is yet to recover from the Bihar chief minister breaking ranks to support Kovind’s candidature. It would be interesting to see whether the Congress is able to rally rest of the opposition to oppose the government unitedly both inside and outside Parliament.
“It is not about who loses or wins, this is about different streams of political thought. We may be low on numbers but are hopeful that our candidates will get support from key sections. The opposition parties will come together on all the key issues in the monsoon session too,” a senior Congress leader said.
Senior leaders of the NDA asserted that it will not allow the opposition to hijack the agenda. “The NDA would like to talk about its achievements in the past three years, the implementation of GST and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Israel and G-20. The ongoing communal clashes in West Bengal along with political violence against Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura will be raised for discussion in both the Houses,” another NDA leader said requesting anonymity.
Fearing another confrontation, some of the political parties have begun to voice fears over another legislative logjam. “The government should be tolerant and allow the opposition parties to raise issues in both Houses of Parliament. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the House functions,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader.
On its part to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament, two sets of all-party meetings have been called on Sunday —one by parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar and another by Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
In an early indication of rising political tensions, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has said it will skip Kumar’s meeting, but will attend Mahajan’s meeting.
“During the meeting to discuss vice-presidential candidate, the call for boycott of the government’s meeting came for consideration but most opposition parties decided against it because we thought it has been a long standing tradition and should not be boycotted,” a senior opposition leader said requesting anonymity.