NEW DELHI: The JNU row featured prominently in Tuesday’s all-party meeting, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Opposition leaders that he had called them to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament as “the PM of the country and not as a party man.”
The meeting, in a break from convention, which took place at South Block, not at Parliament Annexe, saw an exchange of views despite the political heat outside over the arrest of JNU students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges.
It got reflected within too but in a “congenial atmosphere” as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu put it. “We will respond to the issues raised by the opposition and address them. I hope the same atmosphere prevails in Parliament,” he said.
Budget session is beginning February 23. When leaders from the Congress, CPI and CPI(M), questioned the government’s decision of filing a sedition case against Kanhaiya Kumar (who belongs to the CPI’s student wing) and asked it to rein in BJP leaders from making brash comments, it was agreed that a debate would be allowed on the JNU row in Parliament. With contentious issues that have the government and the Opposition ranged against each other, imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and drought relief and agriculture distress getting precedence, the much-touted Goods and Services Tax Bill was not even discussed. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha — where the government has been running into repeated roadblocks — undelined that the Congress was in no way condoning the raising of objectionable slogans against the integrity and unity of India, but, was concerned about filing of sedition charge against Kanhaiya without proof of his involvement. Sore over the defamatory allegations that Rahul Gandhi was associating with “anti-national” elements, Azad requested the PM to restrain his party colleagues.
Countering the Left and the Congress view that the action against the student leader was over the top, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley drew attention to the objectionable slogans and posters put up at the JNU event which led to the crackdown. Calling for an informed decision on the JNU episode, Jaitley asked whether any political party can endorse the slogans and said an enquiry report was awaited. However, Naidu, holding out an olive branch to the
Opposition, shared their concern over the use of terms like “anti-national”, but he also drew attention to how the PM was compared to Hitler, adding there was a need for restraint on both sides. In music to Naidu and PM’s ears, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and some other regional parties said “Parliament must run and all issues can be debated there.”