A day before the start of the Budget session of Parliament, as many as 18 opposition parties, led by the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress, decided on Thursday to boycott the President's address to the joint sitting of both Houses in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the new farm laws.
While 16 opposition parties issued a joint statement announcing their decision to boycott the president's address, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal also separately announced their decision to boycott the address.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said 16 opposition parties have jointly taken the decision to boycott the president's address and have also demanded an independent probe into the Centre's role in the violence that shook the national capital during the farmers' tractor parade on Republic Day.
The opposition parties have sought a repeal of the three farm laws and criticised the Centre for remaining unresponsive to the demands of the farmers protesting against these legislations.
The parties that have jointly announced that they will boycott the president's address on Friday are the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the National Conference, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Trinamool Congress, the Shiv Sena, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India, the Indian Union Muslim League, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the People's Democratic Party, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Kerala Congress (M) and the All India United Democratic Front.
'The prime minister and the BJP government remain arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response. Shocked by this insensitivity of the government, the Opposition political parties, reaffirming the collective demand for the repeal of the anti-farmer laws and in solidarity with the Indian farmers, have decided to boycott the President's address to both the houses of Parliament on Friday, January 29, 2021,' a joint statement issued by various parties said.
Releasing the statement, senior Congress leader Azad, along with Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma and the party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha K Suresh, said farmers have been collectively fighting against the three farm laws 'arbitrarily imposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party government'.
The parties said the government remains unmoved and has responded with water cannons, tear gas and lathi-charge on lakhs of farmers agitating against the laws.
Every effort has been made to discredit a legitimate mass movement through a government-sponsored disinformation campaign, they said.
The parties also said though the protests remained peaceful, there were some acts of violence on January 26 in the national capital, which they condemned.
'We also express our sadness over the injuries sustained by Delhi Police personnel while handling the difficult situation. But, we believe that an impartial investigation will reveal the central government's nefarious role in orchestrating those events,' the parties said in the joint statement.
They said the new farm laws threaten the future of agriculture, which sustains over 60 per cent of the population and the livelihood of crores of farmers, sharecroppers and farm labourers.
'The three farm laws are an assault on the rights of the states and violate the federal spirit of the Constitution. If not repealed, these laws will effectively dismantle the edifice of national food security that rests upon -- minimum support price (MSP), government procurement and public distribution system (PDS),' the statement said.
It also alleged that the farm bills were brought without any consultations with the states and farmer unions, and lacked national consensus.
"Parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed and the laws were pushed through muzzling the Opposition, in brazen violation of Parliamentary rules, practices and conventions. The very constitutional validity of these laws remains in question."
The SAD separately said it will boycott the president's address in protest against the 'adamant manner' in which the Centre was 'bent' on implementing the three farm laws.
'In the present situation, when the central government is unmoved by the suffering of the community which has been agitating since months against the agri acts, we feel there is no responsibility on our part to attend the President's address and hence we are boycotting the same,' it said in a statement.
The AAP also announced its decision to boycott the president's address and demanded a complete rollback of the three agri laws.
"The Aam Aadmi Party is opposing these anti-farmer laws from the very first day and our protest will continue. This is why it has decided to boycott the president's address on Friday at Parliament," the party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said.
Azad earlier alleged that the rules and regulations were "thrown in the dust bin" when the farm bills were passed, as a result of which the farmers took to the streets.
"Those responsible for the violence should be punished and taken to task. The government would have to take responsibility that had it not shown arrogance and taken the laws back, these incidents would not have taken place," he said.
"We strongly believe that the government has miserably failed in handling the farmers' agitation," he said.
President Ram Nath Kovind would address a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Friday, heralding the start of the Budget Session of Parliament.
Decision to boycott Prez's address most unfortunate, reconsider it: Union minister to Oppn
Describing the opposition parties' move as the 'most unfortunate', Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Thursday urged them to reconsider their decision.
Talking to reporters in New Delhi, he said the issues cited by the opposition parties for boycotting the President's address can be raised during the debate on the motion of thanks.
He said the President was above party politics and the BJP as an opposition party never boycotted the President's address.