In Parliament, Congress may corner Centre for ‘assault’ on elected governments

New Delhi : The Congress will continue to oppose the central government’s “assault on constitutional rights and responsibilities of democratically elected state governments”, the party said on Saturday, in what is seen as a signal to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ahead of an opposition meeting in Bengaluru.

In the previous meeting of opposition parties in Patna last month, Kejriwal had demanded that the Congress state its opposition to the Delhi ordinance that vests the power of “administration of services” with the lieutenant governor appointed by the central government. The Aam Aadmi Party had then issued a statement saying it would be difficult for it to attend the next meeting where the Congress is a participant.

“The Congress has always fought against the Modi government’s assault on the constitutional rights and responsibilities of democratically elected state governments and local bodies. This assault comes directly or comes from appointees like the governors,” party general secretary Jairam Ramesh said after a meeting of the Congress parliamentary strategy group.

“The Congress party has opposed it in the past. We will continue to oppose it in Parliament and outside,” Ramesh said. “This is a brazen assault on the Constitution and it takes various forms. Constitutional bodies are weakened and their recommendations are ignored while constitutional agencies are misused.”

The Congress said the AAP will attend the Bengaluru meeting of opposition parties.
HT reached out to the AAP, but did not get an official response till the time of print.
In the strategy group meeting, two participants confirmed there was detailed discussion on the ordinance. The party’s approach can’t be Kejriwal-specific, but take into account the larger issues of federalism, a leader suggested.

“Leaders argued that the Congress can’t support such an ordinance. But our decision on the Delhi ordinance should be based on larger issues of federal structure and the conduct of governors. We can’t be seen as pro-Kejriwal,” a leader present in the meeting said, declining to be named.

“On the question of conveying our stand on the ordinance, it has been left to party president Mallikarjun Kharge,” another leader present in the meeting said, seeking anonymity.

In the strategy meeting, some leaders suggested that protest over former party president Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Parliament should continue in the monsoon session after the issue disrupted the second half of the budget session.

“But a few leaders such as Abhishek Singhvi maintained that no political demonstration should be held as the case is soon coming in the Supreme Court,” said the second leader.

Ramesh later said that in the hour and a half meeting, the party discussed the upcoming legislations and other key issues. The Congress has identified six major issues, with a discussion on the volatile situation in Manipur, which has been rocked by ethnic violence since May 3, as a top priority.

“The Congress is adamant that there must be a discussion on Manipur at the very outset. The Prime Minister has to break his silence on Manipur and speak on the issue,” Ramesh said. “The discussion should take place in the presence of the PM. He has to tell us what the Centre and the state governments are doing.”

The Congress will also raise the issue of rail safety in the backdrop of the horrific accident in Odisha’s Balasore. “We have seen that in the name of Vande Bharat, how rail safety has been compromised. The rail budget is not placed separately and MPs can’t speak on functioning of the railway ministry,” Ramesh said.

The party wants to raise the attack on federal structure, the inclusion of the goods and services tax in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, as it can hurt small businesses, inflation of essential and food items and how the government is weakening the rural jobs guarantee and other welfare schemes of the preceding United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress.

The party also wants to raise the women wrestlers’ complaint against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Brij Bhushan Singh and will continue to demand a joint parliamentary committee on the Adani Group that faced a stock market rout after a damaging report by US short seller Hindenburg Research. Adani has denied wrongdoing.

The Congress will also oppose the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill to be introduced in the monsoon session. “A committee was set up for the previous bill. It met for 2.5 years. It made 92 recommendations but those were mostly ignored. The new bill is worse than the new bill,” Ramesh said. “We will oppose amendments to the forest laws and biodiversity act.”