After 14-Day Paralysis In Parliament, Government's Outreach To Opposition

Union Minister Vijay Goel said the list contains senior leaders of the Congress, Telugu Desam Party and the AIADMK - parties which have been leading the protests in both houses of parliament.

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After 14-Day Paralysis In Parliament, Government's Outreach To Opposition

Rajya Sabha functioned for 17 minutes today, during which Gratuity Bill was passed.


New Delhi:  The government has decided to reach out to the opposition to resolve the logjam in parliament that has persisted since March 5, Union minister Vijay Goel said today. On the list are senior leaders of the Congress, Telugu Desam Party and the AIADMK - parties which have been leading the protests in both houses of parliament since the second half of budget session started on March 5. Only nine days are left to go for the current session, for which the government has a long "to-do" list that includes amendments to the key Whistle Blowers' Protection bill and the Prevention of Corruption Bill.    

Mr Goel, the junior minister for Parliamentary Affairs in the Narendra Modi's cabinet, said he
had dropped into senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad's room but he wasn't there. "I will go to his house later,'' he said, adding that he would "personally meet" other opposition leaders.

"We are continuously requesting opposition parties to allow parliament to function. Today they listened, the Gratuity Bill was passed. Hope the rest of the days they cooperate like they did today," he said, adding that the government was ready to discuss any issue raised by the opposition.

The Congress has accused the government of not reaching out to any of them for the first time saying there had been no back-channel communication, which is otherwise a norm between parties. Earlier this week, Mr Azad said the government was "responsible for the impasse". "We want the house to function and discussions to take place on three issues," he said.

The issues he named were "irregularities in banks where billions of rupees have been looted", special category status for Andhra Pradesh and Cauvery waters - which triggered vociferous protests, complete with marches into the Well of the House, slogan shouting, booing and throwing of paper missiles by the lawmakers of opposition parties.

Over the last 14 days, the upper and lower houses of parliament cumulatively worked for less than 14 hours. On Tuesday, a proposed no-confidence motion against the government by the Telugu Desam Party got derailed following protests by Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK and Telangana's ruling TRS.  

Today, the Lok Sabha functioned for just 8 minutes before it adjourned for the day. The Rajya Sabha managed to function for a slightly longer period -- exactly 17 minutes - before being adjourned following protests by the TDP, the AIADMK and the Congress. But in that short window, the government managed to pass the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill through a voice vote. No discussion was held. Amid a similar din, the bill had got the go-ahead from the Lok Sabha on March 15.

Congress lawmaker Pratap Singh Bajwa said the NDA was trying to "hoodwink us". He said today, after the Gratuity Bill was passed in the upper house, "NDA allies from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka came into the well... This shows they have a tacit understanding... won't allow the House to function".


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