Setting the stage for a stormy Winter Session of Parliament from Monday, several Opposition parties, including the Congress and Trinamool Congress, have decided to boycott the Constitution Day event to be addressed by President Ram Nath Kovind in the Central Hall of Parliament Friday.
The coordinated move came even as the Congress decided to reach out to all like-minded parties to ensure Opposition unity in Parliament. Other Opposition parties, including RJD, DMK and the Left, are also expected to stay away from the event.
At a meeting Thursday of the Congress parliamentary strategy group, chaired by Sonia Gandhi, some leaders referred to the Trinamool’s aggressive poaching of its leaders. But sources said the party president told floor leaders that as the main Opposition party, the Congress should reach out to all parties, signalling that political developments outside Parliament should not come in the way of floor coordination.
The idea, sources said, is to ensure that Opposition parties take a coordinated position in Parliament at least on issues on which they hold a common view.
The parliamentary strategy group meeting also identified the issues to be raised in the House, including the repeal of the three contentious farm laws on the first working day of the session.
Significantly, the party will demand a “legal guarantee” for MSP. The demand will be for a separate law for MSP, a party leader said. At least two leaders told The Indian Express that a legal backing for MSP is a “tricky issue” and the party is yet to crystalise its position.
On Constitution Day, there was consensus at the meeting that the party should boycott the event. Almost the entire Opposition had earlier this year boycotted the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament.
“We won’t participate. This government does not believe in democracy. They are hell bent on dismantling each and every institution of democratic India. Moreover, they have not invited Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to be on the podium. The office of Leader of the Opposition is also an institution. This government does not respect that also,” Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
Sources said the party will seek discussions, while adjourning all business, on the rise in prices of essential commodities, demand the resignation of MoS Ajay Mishra, whose son has been arrested in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri deaths, and ask the Government to announce Rs 4 lakh each as financial assistance to the families of Covid victims.
Besides Kharge and Chowdhury, the meeting was attended by senior leaders A K Antony, Anand Sharma, K C Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, Gaurav Gogoi, Manickam Tagore and Kodikunnil Suresh.