Winter Session: Oppn wants Farooq, govt non-committal

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma and MDMK leader Vaiko after attending an all party meeting ahead of the winter session of Parliament, at Parliament Library Building in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

Opposition leaders on Sunday made a strong demand for the release of former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram to facilitate their attendance in Parliament during the Winter Session but failed to get any concrete assurance from the government.

At an all-party meeting called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, opposition leaders also accused the government of indulging in double-speak by promising them to discuss all issues in Parliament but turning a deaf ear to them on the floor of the House.

Leaders of 27 political parties attended the meeting where Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined them over lunch and assured them that the government was ready to discuss all issues within the framework of rules and procedures of both the Houses.

“We keep getting these assurances from the Prime Minister, but when we want to raise issues in Parliament, the government turns down our demands,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters here.

At least 10 opposition leaders raised the issue of the “illegal detention” of National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah, who represents Srinagar in the Lok Sabha, but failed to get any assurance from Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah, who also attended the meeting.

“You are known to perform miracles. Can there be a miracle and for Farooq-saab to be amongst us in Lok Sabha?,” National Conference member Hasnain Masoodi said addressing Home Minister Amit Shah during the meeting.

The meeting also saw a heated exchange between Azad and YSRCP leader Midhun Reddy when the Congress leader pitched for Chidambaram's presence in the Rajya Sabha. Reddy opposed Azad's plea for Chidambaram and accused the Congress party of harrassing his leader Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.

“We will look at it within the framework of the law,” Joshi told reporters when asked about the opposition demand for the release of Abdullah.

Azad also wanted the government to ensure the release of Chidambaram, who is under arrest in connection with the INX Media case, for the duration of the Parliament session. Chidambaram represents Maharashtra in the Rajya Sabha.

Abdullah has been detained under the stringent Public Safety Act after the Centre's reading down of Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and splitting it into two Union Territories. Besides the senior Abdullah, scores of political leaders including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have been placed under house arrest.

The opposition is planning to raise the issue of increasing unemployment, the slowdown of the economy, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the WhatsApp snooping case and agrarian distress during the Winter Session of Parliament.

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