The Congress and other opposition parties will oppose four of the 11 legislations the government proposes to bring in the monsoon session of Parliament in place of ordinances issued earlier and expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reply to their concerns.
Party leader Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said the Congress is in touch with other like-minded parties and has decided to strongly oppose the three agriculture-related legislations and the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act in both houses of Parliament.
The monsoon session of Parliament starts on Monday amid unprecedented measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like-minded opposition parties have decided to evolve a joint strategy to take on the government on key issues before the country, including the handling of the pandemic, the state of the economy and the Chinese aggression at the border in Ladakh.
Addressing a virtual press conference, Ramesh said, "We want a discussion in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the situation at the border with China, the state of the economy, the closure of businesses, the state of the MSME industry, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues like airport privatisation and the draft EIA notification." "We hope the Opposition would get an opportunity to speak and serious national issues would be discussed. We expect the prime minister to be present in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and give a reply to the questions raised by us. The prime minister does not come and we want that he should be present in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha," he added.
Asked about when the opposition parties would meet to come up with the joint strategy, Ramesh said the leaders of various like-minded parties have been meeting virtually and it is being worked out.
"Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, KC Venugopal and myself have been talking to all like-minded opposition parties. We are in constant touch with them. We have discussed various issues to be raised and the stands to be adopted on the ordinances," he added.
The former Union minister said the like-minded parties are opposed to four ordinances that the government had brought earlier and will now bring legislations to replace those.
The four ordinances -- three related to the farm sector and the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act -- take away the rights of the states and lead to further centralisation of power, he said.
"There is a common ground that we should oppose these ordinances," Ramesh added.
Asked about voices in the government saying the border standoff with China is a sensitive issue, he said in November 1962, when India and China were at war, Parliament was in session and was meeting to discuss the issue.
"The prime minister was sitting in the Lok Sabha then, listening to the criticism of his own policies from senior parliamentarians, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee," Ramesh said.
"It is ridiculous to say that there should not be any discussion on China. We need a discussion on China. We are responsible political parties, we know what to say and what not to say," he said, adding that the prime minister owes an explanation to the country.
"Has the status quo ante on the LAC (Line of Actual Control) been restored or not? We welcome the talks between the defence ministers, foreign ministers (of India and China), these are serious questions and this is not a scoring, debating point here. It is a very serious national issue as is the economic collapse and the COVID-19 cases," he said.
Other issues like the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, airport privatisation, the manner in which opposition leaders, academicians, intellectuals and social activists are being charge-sheeted will also be taken up, Ramesh said.
Asked about Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi not attending the monsoon session of Parliament, he said, a lot of people have expressed their health concerns, not only from the Congress, but from other parties as well and a request has been made to the chairman to allow online access to those who cannot attend the session due to health reasons.
Asked about the objections to the Banking Regulation Ordinance, Ramesh said the Congress has five specific objections. Cooperative banks are part of the structure of cooperatives and ought to be regulated by the state governments, not by the Centre and if the ordinance becomes a law, all key financial intermediaries will come under the control of the Centre and there will be more centralisation.
To a question on the Delhi Police naming CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri and other leaders in the supplementary chargesheet for the northeast Delhi riots, he said the issue would be raised in Parliament, adding, "This is a deliberate attempt to muzzle dissent and debate. This is anti-democratic." Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the monsoon session is being held amid fear and unprecedented times due to the pandemic.
He said India and China are in a conflict situation in Ladakh, the GDP is tumbling and inflation is rising.
"We want to discuss many issues in Parliament that the country and its citizens would want to hear about," he said.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the party has demanded a discussion on the situation at the border and the Chinese aggression, besides on the pandemic and the economy and joblessness, but the government is yet to give any assurance.