Parliament braces for stormy monsoon session (Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The government and the opposition appeared headed for a showdown during the monsoon session of parliament that begins on Tuesday, with the opposition warning of disruptions, and the government saying it will give an equally aggressive response.

In a meeting of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told allies that the government should not be on the backfoot against the opposition.

He also called on the allies to appear united, and promised to look into the concerns of allies opposing the land acquisition bill.

“The prime minister said the government should not be on the backfoot in parliament,” Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told reporters after the meeting.

“If the opposition is aggressive, we will also be in combat mode,” he said.

The opposition parties are prepared to launch an attack on the government over issues ranging from the Lalit Modi controversy to the Vyapam scam, with the Congress insisting on the resignation of “scam-tainted” ministers.

The government has, meanwhile, decided not to bow to the opposition demand, and is also prepared to raise the Goa bribery case allegedly involving some Congress leaders and New Jersey-based consultancy firm Louis Berger to secure a contract for a water developmental scheme.

The opposition parties also appear to be in no mood to compromise vis-a-vis the controversial land bill, on which Modi on Monday called for national consensus.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, however, said leaders of various political parties assured her of cooperation in the house’s smooth functioning.

Indications of the looming showdown in parliament emerged on Monday after an all-party meeting convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu when the government ruled out any resignation.

“The question of resignation does not arise. No one has done anything illegal or immoral,” Naidu said. “There is no question of accepting any ultimatum from anybody.”

He said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was keen to make a statement with respect to the allegations against her regarding Lalit Modi’s travel documents.

At the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad pressed for the resignations of Sushma Swaraj as well as two chief ministers, Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan and Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh.

Azad, who is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said he hoped Modi would announce the resignations of “scam-accused ministers” before Tuesday. “Passing the bills would (then) become very easy,” he said.

The Congress is seeking the resignations of Sushma Swaraj and Raje over their alleged links with former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi, and of Chouhan over the Vyapam recruitment scam.

Naidu rejected the Congress demand.

“Nobody can dictate terms to parliament. Parliament is sovereign,” he said. “We are ready to discuss issues that the opposition wants to raise.”

After the luncheon meeting with leaders of parties, Mahajan said all members assured they would cooperate and that the government was ready for all discussions.

The government also made it clear that BJP members would seek discussion on controversies faced by Congress chief ministers, including Assam’s Tarun Gogoi, Kerala’s Oommen Chandy and Himachal Pradesh’s Virbhadra Singh, if the Congress attacked its chief ministers.

Referring to reports of the New Jersey-based firm charged with bribing Indian officials to get developmental projects in Goa and Guwahati during the Congress rule, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the issue would be raised if the Congress made allegations about BJP leaders.

At the all-party meeting, Modi called upon leaders to move forward on the land acquisition bill that has created a major political divide.

The opposition has slammed the bill as an attempt to acquire land for industrial houses. The government has denied the charge.

Rudy quoted Modi as saying that his government was, however, ready to accept all “good suggestions” from opposition parties on various issues and it was the collective responsibility of the parties to ensure parliament’s smooth functioning.

But the opposition remained adamant.

“The Samajwadi Party will continue to oppose it,” its leader Ram Gopal Yadav said on the land bill.

The all-party meeting was attended by Azad, Ram Gopal Yadav, Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Mishra and CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury.

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