The Winter session of Parliament beginning on Thursday is expected to be a stormy affair, with the opposition set to raise the 'intolerance' issue and press for a resolution to condemn it even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the House should run meaningfully and constructively.
Keen to pass key reform bills like Goods and Services Tax bill and ensure a smooth session, government on Wednesday reached out to opposition parties saying it "does not support or condone" such incidents and is aware of their concerns on "unfortunate incidents like Dadri and killing of M M Kalburgi".
An all-party meeting held in New Delhi in the backdrop of cine actor Aamir Khan's remarks on 'intolerance' saw opposition parties making a strong pitch for an early discussion on the issue, insisting that the returning of awards by writers, artistes and filmmakers should not be taken lightly.
Assuring the members on this count, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, "government is ready to discuss all issues including that of the so-called intolerance though it falls in the domain of states. We do not support or condone such incidents."
"The government is particularly aware of the Opposition's concerns over some unfortunate incidents that have happened in recent weeks including the Dadri incident, killing of MM Kalburgi. The government has condemned those incidents as they go against the traditional and highly cherished values of tolerance," he said.
He noted that the prime minister has already said that such incidents are sad, undesirable and unfortunate.
"We are wise enough to appreciate that development is possible only in an atmosphere of peace and harmonuy. We have a vested interest in pursuing the case of development beyond considerations of caste, creed, religion and hence, do not condone such incidents," said Naidu who hosted the meeting.
Modi, who attended the meeting briefly, said Parliament should run meaningfully and constructively to fulfill the people's expectations.
Modi assured the Opposition leaders that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will talk to them to address their concerns, if any, on the key reform measure.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the all party meeting that Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation is in the interest of nation and the finance minister will speak to parties concerned to address their doubts on it," Naidu said.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who was in Bengaluru, said, "We are going to raise the issue of intolerance. What is happening in the country is disturbing and the prime minister is silent."
Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said he has given a notice in Rajya Sabha seeking passage of a one-line resolution by the House condemning the incidents of "intolerance" and asking the government to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
"That notice has been accepted by the chair. We want the resolution to be passed. Government says it is ready to accept a resolution to acceptable to all," Yechury said.
Naidu, however, steered clear of questions on this issue while claiming that the tone and tenor of discussion in the all-party meeting gave a sense that there is a "collective and positive mood" to see the House function smoothly.
He also claimed that "in the meeting, there was a clear support for the GST. Even the Congress said it was in favour of the bill."
The winter session, which ends on December 23, will have 38 legislative items including seven new bills for introduction during its 20 sittings spread across 28 days.
Government treats 24 of these items as under the priority category, which include GST bill, three bills related to replacement of Ordinances and Real Estate Regulation Bill.
Urging Opposition to enable passage of these bills, Naidu said, "GST Bill is significant for giving a push to economic activity through overhaul of a variety of taxes and enabling the emergence of a single national market in the country. This is under consideration for a long time now since its introduction by the UPA government. Lot of ground has since been covered... Government makes a sincere appeal to all parties to enable passing of this important legislation."
Holding that economic development is a work in progress irrespective of the party in power and is a collective endeavour, he said besides the GST, a few other bills pending before Parliament relate to ease of doing business.
He also noted that investors from India and abroad have been voicing concerns over hurdles and delays in allowing business and investment activities.
Significantly, the Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav announced support to the measure after the all-party meet.
Yechury said the Centre should hold talks with states on the issue of GST as they will lose all legislative power on tax matters once it comes into force.
He regretted that such talks have not been held despite repeated pleas for the same by the Left parties.
With the last Session getting washed out, Naidu said, "we need to leave memories of Monsoon session behind and together move forward."
As most of the Opposition parties are keen to raise the issue of "intolerance", Naidu said though the government does not agree with this perception of rising intolerance, "we are willing to go along with Opposition in this regard for a discussion in an appropriate manner, if you desire."
He also pointed out that such incidents lie in the domain of the state governments, who are vested with the responsibility to maintain law and order.
"We may have political differences but that should not come in the way of serving the cause of the people and making Parliament an effective instrument in enabling the development of our country," the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.
The JD-U has said it will raise all the issues ranging from Ghar Wapsi, Dadri lynching to other incidents of similar nature showing 'rise in intolerance' in the 18 months of the NDA government.
The party has been repeatedly saying that the prime minister should signal his intent to act against people spreading the "venom" by removing five Union ministers, who made one or the other "provocative" remarks.
Party chief Sharad Yadav said a resolution should be passed in the House condemning the incidents related to 'intolerance'. "The entire society is restless," he said.
Yadav backed actor Aamir Khan over his intolerance remarks and asked the government not be be dismissive of his views.
"What he has said is totally justified. The party in power should be tolerant and listen to these voices," he said.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, "people may voice their opinion if they are hurt" but insisted that the democratic set up in India is the best, where everybody gets complete chance to voice their opinion. "So this is not an issue," he said.
Sources in the Congress said among those who may face the ire of the party include Union Minister V K Singh over his "dog" comment over the killing of two young children from a Dalit family in Haryana.
The meeting saw leaders of various political parties expressing their desire to raise several other issues including drought and heavy rains in different parts of the country and the rising prices of essential commodities.
Naidu said a number of regional party leaders felt that they do not get adequate time to discuss the problems of their states in Parliament and hence the sessions should be productive. "The spirit of suggestions and discussion during the meeting gives me hope that the coming Winter session will be a productive one," he said.
The first two days of the session will be devoted to "Discussion on Committment to India's Constitution as part of the 125th birth anniversary celebration of B R Ambedkar".
Hence on these two days, there will be no Question Hour, Zero Hour or any other legislative business.