Amid ‘Bharat’ row, INDIA bloc leaders seek clarity from govt on parliament agenda

Govt has convened special session from September 18 to 22

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge chairs a floor leaders meeting of Opposition INDIA alliance at his residence | PTI Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge chairs a floor leaders meeting of Opposition INDIA alliance at his residence | PTI

The INDIA alliance parties went into a huddle this evening to discuss their strategy for the special session of Parliament convened by the government from September 18 to 22.

Floor leaders of the alliance partners from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha took part in the meeting that began at 8 pm at Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence and lasted for around one-and-a-half hours.

The meeting, which took place in the midst of intense speculation over what is the agenda of the five-day special session of Parliament, ended with a consensus on the need to demand from the government clarity on what are its plans for the session.

It is learnt that the parties are keen that they should not be taken by surprise as had happened on August 5, 2019, when the government had all of a sudden brought in Parliament a bill to scrap Article 370. There is a feeling that the government could be leading them up the garden path by stoking a debate on issues such as One Nation, One Election and the Bharat-India nomenclature. It is felt that the Modi government could have something else up its sleeve.

"Everyday, Modi Govt plants a story in the media of a prospective ‘agenda’, thereby creating a smokescreen of diversion from real issues burdening the people," Kharge said in a message posted on X after the meeting.

The parties are wondering if the government could move in the direction of making use of Bharat more pronounced in official business compared to India or if there was a plan afoot to replace India completely with Bharat.

That the government has not stated anything clearly in this regard while a buzz was set off by the G20 dinner invite of the Rashtrapati Bhavan has resulted in various possibilities being discussed.

When asked whether there was an official notification on switching to Bharat, considering the wording in the President's invitation to the G20 banquet, the Ministry of External Affairs sidestepped the question. Suddenly, the name of the venue for the meeting, Bharat Mandapam, is also being viewed with interest.

Amongst the possible scenarios discussed by the opposition parties are the government reviving the women's reservation bill. It is felt that the government may not bring the Uniform Civil Code since it has run into stiff opposition from tribal communities who are a constituency that the BJP has been wooing. However, the parties do not rule out the possibility of the government bringing in a standalone law banning polygamy on the lines of the triple talaq law and not a complete code for family laws.

It is also felt that the government could bring in legislation enabling the implementation of the Justice Rohini Commission's report on sub-categorisation of OBCs.

"In the meeting, it was discussed as to why the government has so far not provided any clarity on why the special session of Parliament has been called. We demand that the BJP should be transparent on the issue and tell the country why the special session has been concerned and what is the special agenda that they have thought of," said Gaurav Gogoi, Congress' deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.

Piror to the meeting of alliance leaders, the Congress' parliamentary strategy group met at the residence of Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to discuss the strategy for the upcoming session.

Giving details about the Strategy Group Meeting, Gogoi earlier in the evening said, various issues facing the country including the economic situation, unemployment, inflation, devastation caused in Himachal Pradesh by floods as also in the North-East, instability in various parts of the country including Manipur where people are still being killed, the Adani issue and the Nuh and other similar incidents also came for discussion.

Congress' Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and its Communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh said the normal practice before a special session is called is to hold discussions with all the parties and make the agenda known in advance.

"This is for the first time that all of a sudden, while the INDIA parties were meeting in Mumbai, the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues got a special session of parliament announced to divert the attention," he said.

Ramesh said the session should not be limited to praising Modi, and the issues of the people should be taken up.

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