Government willing to walk the extra mile, Modi tells opposition

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told the opposition that his government was willing to walk the extra mile and discuss various issues of concern during the budget session of parliament.

All parties spoke in one voice that parliament should function smoothly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters after a meeting convened by the prime minister to ensure a smooth budget session that begins on February 23.

It was the first such meeting called by the prime minister amid sharp differences between his government and the opposition on a range of issues, including a sedition case against a Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader.

The budget session is crucial for the government since it is keen on the passage of pending legislation like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill. The bill is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the government does not have a majority.

The past two parliament sessions have seen repeated adjournments on a range of issues forced by the Congress and some other opposition parties.

Modi expressed the hope that parliament will function smoothly with the cooperation of the opposition parties.

“The prime minister told the meeting that the government is always willing to walk the extra mile and take up discussion on every issue,” Naidu said.

Modi hoped that the mood of the meeting will be reflected in parliament.

Modi also said that he was not the prime minister of a party but of the entire country and that the government will take appropriate measures on the issues raised by the opposition.

Modi said there should be a discussion on these issues and the government will give its reply.

Naidu said there was growing disappointment among people over parliament not functioning properly.

The minister said that the representatives of opposition parties present at Tuesday’s meeting also raised issues concerning Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University.

The minister said representatives of some parties questioned how sedition charges could be levelled against the student leader.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at the meeting that highly objectionable slogans were raised on the campus and an inquiry into the matter should be allowed to be completed. Jaitley explained the factual situation, Naidu said.

The JNU has been on the boil over JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest on Friday.

The controversy erupted when some JNU students organised a meet on February 9 to mark the anniversaries of the executions of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front co-founder Maqbool Bhat. Anti-India slogans were reportedly raised at the meeting.

On GST, Naidu said the Trinamool Congress was among the parties strongly in favour of the bill’s passage in the winter session of parliament.

Naidu will hold a meeting with leaders of various political parties on February 22 to inform them about the government’s legislative agenda and discuss issues to be raised.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting here, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party raised the issue of the government’s undue intervention in university politics.

“We raised the issue of Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad University due to undue pressure put on him by the university administration,” Azad said.

“Here in Delhi, JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar did not speak anything against the constitution or against the country’s unity. But he has been booked for sedition,” he added.

Azad said that Congress was ready to cooperate for the smooth functioning of parliament in the budget session.

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