Indications of a stormy start to the Budget session emerged at an all-party meeting on Monday with opposition accusing the government of "setting the agenda for disruption" despite the latter reaching out to it expressing readiness to discuss all issues including the JNU row.
Dismissing the all-party meeting called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu as a mere "formality", opposition leaders lamented that the prime minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party have not taken action against a single leader making "provocative" statements and put the ball in the government's court for running the House.
The first showdown between the ruling and the opposition benches is expected in Rajya Sabha on February 24, the first working day of the session when the JNU issue could come up for discussion.
While the opposition has closed ranks to corner the government on it, BJP feels it stands to gain by turning the debate into one between "patriots and anti-nationals," as a party leader said.
Making it clear that Opposition will not allow passage of any key bill in the first half of the session, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said opposition will "on merit" allow the passage of only those bills on which there is general consensus.
"Contentious bills should not be brought. Bring only those bills on which there is a general agreement. Bills like GST will not come in the first half of the session," Kharge said.
When asked whether GST Bill can be passed in the second half of the session, he evaded a direct reply, saying a view will be taken then.
The meeting saw a number of opposition as also BJP leaders demanding an early debate on the JNU row with Communuist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury speaking of a "chilling parallel" to the current situation in the country with the one that led to rise of Fascism in Germany.
"The government is setting the agenda for Parliament's disruption even before its session has begun. We have seen this agenda of BJP for last three-four sessions. The government creates a situation in the country that is responsible for disruption," he said.
Naidu said the meeting was very positive and parties were in favour of running Parliament.
At a time when the government is reaching out separately to non-Congress and non-Left parties, Naidu said a number of regional parties feel that they were not getting adequate time to raise their issues due to disruptions in Parliament.
"Smaller parties had a complaint that they are not being able to raise their issues due to disruption. Government is ready to discuss all issues including the JNU and the dalit scholar suicide in HyderabadUniversity."
Dismissing the meeting as a mere formality, Yechury, however, said the government should earmark time to discuss all the issues. "If the government does not earmark time for these, there will be disruptions."
Assuring opposition leaders that they will not find the government wanting in enabling discussion on any issue of concern to them, Naidu said the government was aware of the issues and events that the parties are concerned about and would like those to be discussed in the Parliament.
"These include demand for reservation of Jats, incidents in the JNU and related developments in a Delhi Court, suicide of Rohit Vemula, political events in Arunachal Pradesh. The government is as much concerned about these issues as any other party and we are more than keen for a detailed discussion on all of them," he said.
Naidu also said the government was firmly committed to upholding the principles of Constitution in letter and spirit.
While it was clear that the opposition was not keen on taking up any major legislative business, Naidu chose to flag the government's keenness to pass bills like GST.
"GST Bill passed by Lok Sabha and as reported by the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha and the Real Estate (Development & Regulation) as reported by the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha are pending in the Upper House. There is widespread interest and enthusiasm over the passage of these two important Bills. The government believes that it is time now to take forward these two legislations," he said.
Holding the government squarely responsible for non-functioning of Parliament in the last two sessions, Azad said the government and the ruling party have failed to take any action on the issues raised by the opposition over controversial statements made by BJP leaders.
"If the government feels helpless to take action, it should authorise a committee of opposition parties to take action against them," he said, adding that the fact is Parliament is "vertically divided". No opposition party is responsible for that and the "blame squarely lies with the ruling party, which has failed to rein in its people", Azad said.
Rejecting the government's charge against the opposition, he wondered how can the latter be held responsible for incidents like Pathankot terror strike, imposition of President's Rule in Arunachal, raids on non-BJP Chief Ministers, the JNU row and bashing up of journalists in court.
Upping the ante on the JNU row, Yechury said, "There was manufactured evidence (in Germany, which led to) burning of Reichstag building, which all ended with the end of World War II. Similarly, there is manufactured row in JNU. Manufactured evidences were given.
"Those, who are responsible for this are moving free. There is lot of talk about nationalism over the JNU row. It is very similar to the nationalism that Hitler used to come to power," Yechury said.
Besides, the CPI-M leader accused the government of "complete lack of governance" and said as an instance some leaders had to attend today's all-party meeting without taking bath as there was no water in Lutyens Delhi. He was referring to the governments' handling of the Jat agitation in Haryana which led to disruption of water supply to Delhi.
Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyaye said the ruling party has an important role in running Parliament.