23/02/2016 9:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Budget Session To Begin Today; Opposition Wants Debate On JNU Row

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 18: JNU students, professors and CPI party members protest for the release of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, at JNU Campus on February 18, 2016 in New Delhi, India. The ripple effect of protests against the arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges is visible in a wave of demonstrations in educational institutions across India. Delhi's Patiala House Court on Wednesday sent JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar to judicial custody till March 2. JNU has been on the boil over the arrest of its student's Union President Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges after some students organised a meet to mark the anniversaries of executions of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- A debate over the JNU row seems imminent on the first day of the budget session today, with both the government and the opposition reportedly keen to discuss the issue.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has been vocal about her criticism for the government's handling of the issue. "The ruling establishment seems to have lost all sense of balance, and of proportion," she said yesterday at a Congress Working Committee meeting. "It appears determined to undermine all democratic norms. It seems hell-bent to destroy the spirit of inquiry, the spirit of questioning, the spirit of debate and dissent."

According to reports, the opposition wants to raise the JNU issue, Pathankot terror attack, and Dalit student Rohith Vemula's suicide in Parliament.

The government has prioritised 32 items for the session, which includes 11 bills pending in Rajya Sabha and one in the Lok Sabha.

While an all-party meeting to discuss the agenda for the session was called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday morning, another was called by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan in the evening.

Naidu said the was the government was concerned about recent incidents in different universities, and will enable discussion all burning issues.

"Several parties want discussion on issues such as reservations, JNU and Hyderabad University. We are prepared for it," he said.

Urging the opposition parties to cooperate in running parliament smoothly, Naidu said everyone would have an opportunity to raise issues but discussions should take place according to rules.

There should be debate, but without disruption, said the minister.

Several BJP MPs, meanwhile, have given notices for discussing the JNU issue, according to a DNA report which quoted unnamed party sources. The BJP plans to defend its reaction to the JNU row on nationalism grounds. Last week, BJP chief Amit Shah had accused Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of joining hands with "anti-national" JNU students.

ABVP members take out protest march against the anti-national activities in JNU on 12 February, 2016 in New Delhi.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that Congress would extend its support to the bills based on their merit.

Noting his party would raise issues like the terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase earlier last month, the attack on teachers and students of JNU, and death of a Dalit students in Hyderabad University, he said generations of Congressmen have been making sacrifices for the country and the party does not need lessons from the Bharatiya Janata Party in patriotism.

In a statement, the Congress meeting, which was attended by party vice president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, lamented that Constitutional values and democratic norms are under "systematic assault".

"What has happened in a leading institution of higher learning and indeed in similar institutions, and the violence and hooliganism that happened in a court in the nation's capital has shocked the Nation", it said.

"It is a planned attack on the freedom of expression and the freedom to differ. A totally manufactured debate on patriotism and nationalism is being generated through manipulated news-clips to cover up the Government's failures and its heavy-handedness in dealing with student protesters", the apex policy making body of the Congress said.

The Congress in cooperation with other like-minded parties will raise these and other issues when Parliament begins Tuesday, the CWC said.

"Parliament's duty is to debate and legislate," it said.

Gandhi said that contrary to what the government has been saying, Congress wants to make it clear once and for all that it wants Parliament to function, to legislate.

"The problem is not with us, it is with the government which refuses to accept that the democratic right of the Opposition is to raise burning public issues for debate and discussion. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that Parliament functions," she said.

Meanwhile, contentious bills like the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Bill will not be brought up in the first half of the session, Congress has clarified. “Contentious bills should not be brought. Bring only those bills on which there is a general agreement. Bills like GST will not come in the first half of the session,” Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha told PTI.

The first half of the Budget session starts today and runs till 16 March. It will then resume on 25 April and continue until 17 May.

(with agency inputs)

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