PM Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu after an all-party dinner in New Delhi (Press Trust of India photo)
As the Winter session of Parliament begins today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reminded lawmakers from all parties that "All MPs have a responsibility to run the country." PM Modi also said that he hopes the opposition will continue to play "a constructive role."
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Both Houses were adjourned for the day after obituary references for the Congress' Rajya Sabha MP and former union minister Murli Deora who died early on Monday and Lok Sabha lawmaker from the Trinamool Congress, Kapil Krishna Thakur who had died last month.
The Opposition has promised a united attack on the government this session. From Tuesday, when the Houses sit for business, opposition parties plan to stonewall the government's efforts to move key legislation. "This session will witness a lot of hungama (chaos)," said Janata Dal (United) lawmaker KC Tyagi, after an all-party meeting on Sunday.
The PM said today, "We all friends who sit in Parliament will work together - that's my belief," also saying, "A new session starts, we have to work with a calm mind in the cold climate." The government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha or upper house.
The BJP will take heart from the Shiv Sena's promise of support. Despite their recent acrimony in Maharashtra, the Sena's Sanjay Raut said the party will support the government's agenda in Parliament.
Mr Tyagi's party and others belonging to what they call the "Janata Parivar" - including Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, and the Janata Dal (Secular) of HD Deve Gowda - have said they will function as a pressure group in Parliament.
The Winter session will continue till December 23 and will have 22 sittings. The government is focused on passing the Insurance Bill, which seeks to enhance the cap on foreign direct investment in the insurance sector. It has detailed 37 bills it wants passed, among them the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill.
"We along with parties such as the Trinamool, CPM and others will oppose the Insurance Bill," said Mr Tyagi. The Trinamool Congress will also find support from other opposition parties in its attack on the government on the issue of black money and what it calls "the rising number of communal flare-ups" across the country.
Opposition parties have also red-flagged proposed changes in the land acquisition bill and the MNREGA, both landmark legislation passed during the Congress-led UPA government's tenure.
But main opposition Congress has refused to spell its stand on the Insurance Bill. "We will decide when the bill comes to the floor of the House," said Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha.
To minimize disruptions, the Rajya Sabha has decided to shift the Question Hour, the first item on Parliament's agenda on any given day, from 11am to noon in this session.