Farm laws aside, Centre faces plenty of bouncers in Winter Session
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Farm laws aside, Centre faces plenty of bouncers in Winter Session

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Repeal of the controversial farm laws is unlikely to provide much respite for the Narendra Modi government during the Winter Session of Parliament as the opposition is gearing up to fire a volley of criticism over rise in prices of essential commodities and plans for disinvestment. 

Issues flagged by the farmers including an enabling law for minimum support prices, compensation for nearly 700 farmers who perished during the year-long protest, are among the top priorities of the opposition in the run-up to the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. With Omicron variant reviving fears of COVID-19 resurgence, Congress and a number of other opposition parties are also planning to question the slowing down of the vaccination programme after the 100-crore mark was celebrated with much fanfare.

Lack of opposition unity, especially due to the recent cold war between Congress and the TMC, is the only comfort for the ruling NDA coalition. Some regional parties like the DMK and the Left parties are sticking to the Congress and discussing common strategies, while a number of other players like the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena are veering closer to the TMC. Any patch-up between the Congress and the TMC has been ruled out after the Meghalaya coup in which a dozen MLAs of the grand old party crossed over to Mamata Banerjee’s expanding bandwagon in the Northeast. Stressing that the Congress is unable to defeat the BJP, the West Bengal chief minister wants to take away leadership of the opposition, and this is a no-no for the Gandhi parivar.

As a result of this rift, the issues that will be raised in Parliament will not be a coordinated common opposition stand, a senior Congress MP said. For example, the TMC is gearing up to stall Parliament over political violence in Tripura where the BJP has managed major gains in the Agartala civic body elections. On the other hand, COVID-19 is back on the Congress priority list after the Omicron scare and Rafale has also made a comeback after recent revelations of kickbacks by the French media. While hopes for opposition unity were raised after boycott of the Constitution Day celebrations in Parliament by the opposition, TMC MPs have stressed that they are unlikely to join opposition meetings organised by the Congress during the session.

Other opposition parties have also set their priorities with the DMK deciding to focus on exemption from NEET for Tamil Nadu and quick central government financial assistance to tackle flood damage. The NCP and Shiva Sena are likely to focus on the Enforcement Directorate-Aryan Khan controversy and the Parambir Singh-Anil Deshmukh issues. Each and every party is also planning to claim credit for the repeal of the farm laws even though leaders of farmers groups have insisted on not allowing political involvement in their year-long agitation.

Despite efforts at the all-party meetings and the expected appeal from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for orderly discussions, the proceedings are expected to be stormy. Most political parties want discussion on price rise as inflation has been skyrocketing – with prices of edible oil, pulses, vegetables, soaring in the post-COVID period. Many parties are gearing up to blame the opposition for high prices of petrol and diesel that are ruling above the 100-rupee mark in most parts of the country even after the recent reduction in excise duty. The opposition is in a combative mood especially since campaigning has already begun in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa. On its part, the ruling coalition is ready with a list of 26 bills for the session including one to ban all private cryptocurrencies and launch India’s own digital currency.

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