New Delhi: A day before the start of the budget session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to opposition parties in a bid to avoid a repeat of the winter session, which was a washout.
At an all-party meeting called by parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar on Monday, Modi said Parliament was a “mahapanchayat" which should function despite differences that may crop up during electioneering.
The appeal had little effect on the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the third largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, which said its MPs, who skipped the all-party meeting, would not attend the first two days of the budget session.
“Trinamool MPs will not be present in Parliament on the first two days of the budget session in protest against demonetization which was implemented without taking Parliament into confidence, and restrictions on withdrawal limits from bank accounts which are still in force," a statement issued by the party said.
There was another all-party meeting later in the day, this one called by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Kumar said Modi had sought the support of all parties and said that “in election time, there can be some differences among us, but Parliament is a mahapanchayat. It should function."
He also dismissed the opposition’s charge that the government’s decision to advance the presentation of the Union budget just ahead of elections to five state assemblies could queer the pitch.
Kumar said the Supreme Court as well as the Election Commission had already given their judgment on this.
Earlier in the day, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that the government should not have advanced the budget session.
“We have asked the government to avoid any such announcement in the budget session which affects the level playing field in the five assembly elections," Azad said.
He added that the government should call another all-party meeting before the second part of the session as the first half was very short.
Opposition parties, including the Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, continued their demand for a discussion on demonetization.
“We have told the government that there should be a discussion on demonetization for two days as people across India have suffered due to this irrational move of the government," Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPM, told reporters after the meeting.
The all-party meetings come just a day ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee’s joint address to both Houses of Parliament.
The Union budget, the first to subsume the railway budget, will be presented on 1 February.
The budget session is spread over two parts—the first will begin on 31 January and end on 9 February, while the second half of the session will begin on 9 March and conclude on 12 April.
PTI contributed to the story.