jnu protest
(Image for representational purpose only)

The JNU row is set to cast a shadow on the coming Budget Session as the opposition on Tuesday raised questions on the issue at a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ensuring smooth running of Parliament but Congress put the ball in government’s court.

In the first-ever exercise initiated by Modi against the backdrop of repeated stalling of sessions, the Prime Minister reached out to them, seeking their cooperation saying “I am not the Prime Minister of BJP alone but the entire country”.

He expressed the hope that Parliament will function and assured opposition parties that the government will work to address their concerns.

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Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said there was a general consensus that Parliament should run smoothly. The session begins from February 23.

Today’s meeting was dominated by the JNU issue with the Congress and the Left questioning the filing of sedition case against JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.

They also wanted the government to rein in BJP leaders and those holding the constitutional posts who are “vitiating” the atmosphere in the country.

Opposition leaders gave notice that they will raise issues like JNU, Arunachal crisis and the suicide of a Dalit scholar in Hyderabad Central University and farmers’ problems.

Briefing media after the meeting, Naidu said the Prime Minister said the government was open to discussion on all issues.

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“We will respond to the issues raised by the opposition and address them… I hope the congenial mood here will be translated into action in Parliament,” Modi told the meeting.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad made it clear that his party “disassociates” with students who shouted slogans at the JNU against India’s unity and Constitution but insisted that there was no proof of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar. The Left parties concurred with him.

Azad also accused the BJP leaders of “defaming” the party leadership with their “anti-national” jibes and said the government should restrain them.

He told the media after the two-hour meeting that the atmosphere in the country has been vitiated since the BJP came to power and its government has taken no action against people responsible for it.

“His arrest on the sedition charge is unfair… Action should also have been taken against those who vitiated the country’s atmosphere. If people holding the constitutional positions are vitiating the atmosphere in the country, then it will find a reflection in Parliament. Had action been taken against them, then many things which we see today would not be happening,” he said.

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Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley explained the government’s position on the JNU row and spoke about the slogans and posters related to the controversial event, calling them highly objectionable.

He said the implications of the JNU incident should be understood properly. He asked whether any political party can endorse the slogans made at the so-called protest meet in JNU and everyone should await the inquiry report in the matter.

Naidu shared the opposition leaders’ concern over use of terms like “anti-national” but he referred to the ‘Hitler’ jibe made against the PM and said all parties should show restraint.
He said all parties spoke in one voice that Parliament should function.

“Frustration is rising among people due to stalemate in Parliament… Issues are not being debated,” he said.

In a veiled dig at Congress, he said the opposition party spoke about the atmosphere in the country but other parties said there should be no “ifs and buts” and Parliament should function.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the government is willing to walk the extra mile in accommodating the opposition.

The meeting also saw Trinamool Congress pushing for the passage of the GST bill, Naidu said.

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JD (U) Chief Sharad Yadav said Parliament must run and all issues debated there.
Azad said the GST bill was not discussed in the meeting.

An all-party has been called on February 22 in which bills likely to be tabled in the session and other related issues will be discussed.