26/11/2015 8:51 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Opposition Gears Up To Attack Government On Intolerance At Parliament Winter Session

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi overlooks the Indian Parliament house on the opening day of its monsoon session, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/ Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI -- The opposition is gearing up to question the government on "rising intolerance" at the winter session of the Parliament, which begins today. Even as prospects for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill seem bright, with both the government and the opposition parties indicating their willingness to discuss some of the contentious clauses, it is the issue of intolerance that threatens to disrupt the parliament.

While opposition parties have made it clear in the past several weeks that they supported the rising chorus against the "intolerance" allegedly allowed to grow unchecked under the present government, the Centre has denounced the campaign, dismissing it as a politically-motivated movement with no real, legitimate basis.

"[I]t is not that the nation is not tolerant or the majority community is not tolerant… They are all tolerant, but the government or the party which constitutes the government, that is intolerant,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, hours after an all-party meet on Wednesday. He alleged that while provocative statements by political leaders were not new, the government in the past would act against such individuals, and now the "ruling party is just listening and not taking any action".

"It is very dangerous for the country," he added.

Opposition is likely to press for a resolution to condemn the alleged rise in intolerance, a demand unlikely to be conceded by the government which instead prefers a debate, seeking to project incidents like Dadri lynching as law and order issues pertaining to states.

"The winter session is beginning from today and the government has to answer in the Parliament. It should discuss issues and take steps," Congress leader Pramod Tiwari told ANI, adding that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that the Parliament works.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Modi, he said that the leader doesn't respond to questions raised on intolerance at home, but goes to foreign countries and claims everything is peaceful in India. "He is not liable to answer the queen of Britain, but to the people of this nation," he added.

"We are ready for debate and discussion. From the opposition side, the session will go in a peaceful manner."

Meanwhile Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said though the government does not agree with the perception of rising intolerance, "we are willing to go along with Opposition in this regard for a discussion in an appropriate manner, if you desire."

The government "does not support or condone" such incidents and is aware of the Opposition's concerns on "unfortunate incidents like Dadri and killing of M M Kalburgi", he said.

The two houses of Parliament will meet for the winter session that begins today and goes on till 23 December. The legislative agenda includes 19 Bills that are currently pending in Parliament for consideration and passage. 14 new Bills are proposed to be introduced.

The government is pushing for the passage of the GST Bill this session, with Modi having assured the Opposition that BJP will address all their concerns on the legislation, which was passed by the Lok Sabha earlier in May this year.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said his party was ready to discuss the "very important" tax bill on which it has "very genuine concerns". Rahul Gandhi has said the Congress strongly supports the legislation, but the government should reach out to the Opposition and address three key issues raised by the party.

Spelling out the Congress' stand on key bills, including GST, during an interaction with girl students at a prestigious college in Bengaluru on Wednesday, Gandhi said: "Do we want the GST? Are we ready to compromise on GST? Are we ready to talk on GST? Absolutely."

"We are open for discussions," Azad meanwhile said. "Let us see how far they go ahead."

(with agency inputs)

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