In an indication of how the upcoming Budget session of Parliament is likely to go down, Opposition parties raised the heated issue of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) row during an all-party meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
The Budget session, which is set to start Feb. 23, is likely to see political issues of recent months disrupt discussions over bills, including the important Goods and Services Tax Bill. Modi met with all parties on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Budget session, and was asked to clarify on the recent developments on the JNU row, according to the Press Trust of India.
While the parties reportedly agreed to ensure smooth running of Parliament during the Budget session, they have decided to raise recent issues, including the JNU row and the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad. "All issues, including JNU, will be discussed in Parliament," Shiv Sena leader Anand Adsul told PTI after the meeting.
The Congress is reportedly planning how it will raise the issues in Parliament to attack the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. "We are working out the formulation as to how these issues can be raised in an effective manner," Congress leader Anand Sharma told The Hindu.
The BJP-led NDA government has said it is open to discussing the issues in Parliament. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government was "ready to walk the extra mile to ensure discussion in Parliament on all issues raised by the Opposition."
However, precedents have shown that such discussions often escalate and end up disrupting Parliament sessions. In the Winter session late last year, when the intolerance debate was raging in the country, the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling BJP does not have majority, worked for only 51% of its scheduled time. The BJP-dominated Lok Sabha, however, worked for 98% of its scheduled time, according to the PRS Legislative Research think-tank.
Here is a list of of a few issues that may end up disrupting the Budget session this year:
Sedition charges in JNU row: The issue began with allegations against some students at JNU conducting an event on Feb. 9 to commemorate the hanging of Parliament attacker Afzal Guru. The issue soon escalated, with the Delhi Police arresting JNU Students' Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and charging him with sedition, and a statement by Home Minister Rajnath Singh that Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed had supported the "anti-India" event.
Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Left, have already hit out at the government for their handling of the issue, and have demanded evidence supporting Singh's serious claim against JNU students. The row is now set to spill over into Parliament next week.
Pathankot terror attack and talks with Pakistan: Following the Jan. 2 terror attack at the Pathankot air force base in Punjab, the Opposition was quick to hit out at Narendra Modi's policy towards Pakistan, especially since the attack came a week after the Indian prime minister's surprise visit to Pakistan on Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif's birthday.
Even while India got Pakistan's assurance on investigating links of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group to the attack, the latter failed to implicate JeM chief Masood Azhar, believed to be the mastermind of the Pathankot strike.
Other parties are expected to pose questions to the Modi government on the investigation into the Pathankot terror attack and its policy towards Pakistan.
Rohith Vemula suicide: The suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad University last month brought the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry under the lens over a letter written by BJP Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya to the ministry, calling Vemula and other students of the Ambedkar Students' Association "anti-national elements."
Smriti Irani's ministry had reportedly issued as many as four letters to the University of Hyderabad on the matter raised by Dattatreya. This had allegedly pressured the university into suspending Vemula from the hostel over an alleged attack on the leader of the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad student wing.
The episode saw Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, among other politicians, visit Hyderabad to hit out at the BJP government, with many even portraying the BJP as an "anti-Dalit" party.
Parties are likely to question the government during the Budget session on the role of the HRD Ministry in the suicide.
President's rule in Arunachal Pradesh: This issue has been one of the biggest flashpoints between the BJP and the Congress in recent months after the Modi government imposed President's rule in the Congress-ruled Arunachal Pradesh in January, a move that the latter called "unconstitutional."
President's rule was imposed in the north-eastern state after Arunachal Pradesh Governor JP Rajkhowa said "the constitutional machinery has broken down in the state." The governor had reportedly cited instances of cow slaughter in the state as well as alleged links between the government and an outlawed Naga militant group as some of the reasons to call for President's rule.
However, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki called the governor a "BJP agent" and accused him of supporting rebel Congress lawmakers in an attempt to topple the state government.
While the matter is still with the Supreme Court, the Congress is likely to battle it out with the BJP in Parliament.
David Headley's revelations: The deposition by Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley via videoconferencing before a Mumbai court last week, in which he referred to Ishrat Jahan as an LeT suicide bomber, is among the few political storms in recent months in which the BJP found leverage against the Congress.
After Headley named Ishrat Jahan, who was killed by the Gujarat Police during Narendra Modi's rule in the state in what was criticised to be a fake encounter, the BJP has sought an apology from the Congress.
However, the Congress has maintained its stand that the encounter was a fake one and that she should have been tried under law if she was indeed a terrorist, as per reports.
BJP sources told ANI news agency that the party will "assertively" raise David Headley's deposition during the Budget session.