As budget session resumes, Delhi riots on top of opposition agenda

The opposition also plans to question the Modi government on the expenditure for the 'Namaste Trump' event

The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill was passed by voice vote and returned by the Rajya Sabha as it was a money bill.

As the second part of the Budget session of Parliament begins on Monday (March 2), opposition parties are planning to corner the Narendra Modi government on a number of important issues including the gory communal riots in Delhi that have claimed 45 lives so far and the persisting concerns over the National Population Register (NPR) exercise that is all set to begin on April 1.

The ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh and inflammatory statements made during the Delhi Assembly election campaign are also on top of the agenda of opposition parties that are also planning to forge a united front to put the ruling alliance on the mat.

A recent Supreme Court ruling that says reservations in promotion is not a fundamental right is also expected to come up for discussion once again, with several parties including the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Congress, Left, and the DMK planning to demand a legislation to be enacted to this effect at the earliest.

The recent visit of US President Donald Trump to India and the Delhi government’s decision to sanction prosecution of former JNU student leader Kanaihya Kumar in the controversial sedition case are other areas of discussion that the opposition plans to demand during the second part of the Budget session that is primarily meant to discuss ‘Demands for Grants’ and the 2020-21 Union Budget provisions.

Related news | Bodies decomposing outside freezer, allege kin of Delhi riot victim

Since the Home ministry of the Union government controls the Delhi police, the treasury benches have to field questions related to the communal riots in North-East Delhi that has claimed 42 lives so far and left many injured, besides causing loss to property worth crores.

While the Delhi police have arrested 600 people so far and filed dozens of FIRs, the general criticism that the Modi government has to respond to is that police action was delayed and ineffective in the beginning.

The Congress, TMC and the Left have been criticising BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Varma, and Kapil Mishra for coming out with provocative slogans that allegedly led to the flare-up in northeast Delhi colonies like Maujpur, Jaffrabad, Karawal Nagar, Shiv Vihar, and Khajuri Khas.

The Shaheen Bagh sit-in is going on despite court cases and complaints about road closure. The provocation continues with slogans at metro stations, processions and even banners mounted on vehicles condemning “Jihadis” – triggering fears of further polarisation.

The VCK from Tamil Nadu has even enacted a formal resolution demanding a full-fledged probe into the Delhi riots.

Related news | After Hindu Sena threat, Section 144 imposed in Shaheen Bagh

The second part of the Budget session is scheduled from March 2 to April 3 – for providing ample time to discuss allocations proposed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for various departments in the 2020-21 Budget.

The first part of the session was from January 31 to February 11 – before the Delhi Assembly election that was won once again by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Therefore, the BJP-led NDA is likely to face jibes from the opposition for losing the election, apart from criticism for lack of action against leaders who made inflammatory speeches.

Though the NPR is different from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that has created a huge controversy in Assam, the ongoing protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have cast a shadow on the normal census exercise.

The NPR exercise is set to begin from the beginning of next month and enumerators will go from house to house, collecting data on residents of each area. Due to the current surcharged atmosphere, NRC enumerators are expected to face difficulties from people who may mistake them to be collecting data for the NRC.

Related news | NPR process starts April 1, President to be enrolled first

As the co-operation of a few state governments is also being questioned, Home Minister Amit Shah has toured Kolkata to ally apprehensions. Unlike the 2010 NPR, this year’s NPR is to collect additional data like Aadhaar number, mobile number, passport details, etc. on a voluntary basis.

Since US President’s Donald Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad, Agra, and Delhi has become a subject of discussion, opposition parties plan to question the Narendra Modi government on the expenditure for the ‘Namaste Trump’ programme and the lack of a trade deal with the US to boost exports from India.

On the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government’s decision to sanction prosecution of Kanhaiya Kumar, former JNU student union leader, in the controversial sedition case, after keeping it pending despite constant criticism from the BJP, the Left parties feel that there was no basis for a sedition case and dissent was permitted in a democracy.

Related news | Delhi Police sanctioned to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar in JNU sedition case

On the Supreme Court ruling over reservation in promotions, opposition parties like BSP and Congress plan to press the government to bring in legislative amendments to make such a reservation mandatory for state governments. Congress has been under attack over the issue since it was pointed out that it was Uttrakhand government, then under the Congress rule, that opposed reservation in promotions by state governments in the case that was decided by the Supreme Court.

While a number of bills like the Central Sanskrit Universities Bill and the Direct Tax Vivad Se Viswas Bill are pending, it is not clear if the central government will be in a position to take up discussion of over 45 bills as planned earlier, besides the Budget-related issues, due to the number of political issues that have cropped up during the recent weeks.

In any case, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also expected to face criticism while replying to budget discussions as recent date points of a severe downturn in the economy that has taken a turn for the worse due to global impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

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