NEW DELHI : The opposition is not against any bill that is in the interest of the people, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Sunday, after an all-party meeting convened by the government. The meeting was called to ensure smooth functioning of both Houses ahead of the first Parliament session of the 17th Lok Sabha, during which the Union budget will be presented.

Azad, the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, stressed on the need for a discussion on agrarian distress, unemployment, and drought, and also called for the early conduct of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which is under President’s rule. “If Lok Sabha polls can be held, then why not state polls. It appears that the centre wants to run the state through the governor’s administration," he said.

The Parliament session will begin on Monday and is scheduled to end on 26 July. It is of key importance as finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her first budget in this session. The session will also see contentious bills, including the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill and the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, being taken up for discussion.

“We have received suggestions from opposition parties as well as our allies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made concluding remarks that there are several new faces in Parliament and new thoughts should come with them," said Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi after the all-party meeting chaired by Modi.

Other than Azad and Joshi, the meeting was also attended by home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, National Congress Party leader Supriya Sule, and Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav.

In a rare gesture, Joshi met former Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with Azad to ensure smooth functioning of both the Houses of Parliament.

Joshi once again revived the discussion on simultaneous elections and has written to leaders of all political parties to attend a meeting to be headed by Modi on 19 June.

The parliamentary affairs minister also said that the Prime Minister has called a meeting of members of Parliament on 20 June to discuss the issues to be raised in the House.

Members of the Lok Sabha will elect a Speaker on 19 June, while President Ram Nath Kovind will address a joint session of both Houses on 20 June.

The National Democratic Alliance also held a meeting later in the day to discuss its strategy for the forthcoming session.

The government is reaching out to the opposition, especially in light of the contentious bills that are to be taken up for discussion, such as the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill.

The government had passed an ordinance last week to approve a bill to ban the practice of instant triple talaq. On Wednesday, the Union cabinet introduced a fresh triple talaq bill to be taken up in Parliament this budget session. The previous triple talaq bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha, but did not get tabled in the Rajya Sabha. It thus lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha on 3 June. Thus, the lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can become an obstacle though it enjoys a huge majority in the Lok Sabha.

In the recently concluded elections, the BJP won with a huge mandate of 303 seats. The Congress managed to win just 52 seats and is yet to announce the name of the person who will lead the party in the Lower House.

pretika.k@livemint.com


Close