Hamid Ansari convenes meeting of Rajya Sabha leaders ahead of Budget session

New Delhi: Apparently concerned over the virtual wash out of last two sessions, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has called a meeting of leaders of all parties in the Upper House on Saturday amid possibility of a tumultuous Budget session beginning February 23.

This is perhaps the first such formal pre-session meeting convened by the Rajya Sabha Chairman. Significantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been invited for the meeting, which aims at ensuring a smooth three-month long session. Ansari had also held an informal meeting with leaders of Congress and BJP in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as well. Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks majority, had seen repeated disruption in the Monsoon and Winter sessions with Congress and several other opposition parties blocking key economic reform measures of the Modi government.

Repeatedly voicing his anguish over the disruptions, Ansari had in the past even toyed with the idea of possible changes in rules for smooth running of the House. As the Winter session of Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on December 23, Ansari had lamented that the record of this session belied the commitment to the principles of the Constitution “in good measure”.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu have also called separate all-party meetings on February 22, a day before the crucial session begins. Naidu had also held a meeting of leaders of a number of opposition parties on February 4 where it was decided to have a full-length session and not to go for any curtailment of its duration even as assembly elections in five states are scheduled in between.

The government is keen to push its legislative agenda in the Budget session, including the pending bills on GST and real estate thwarted in the last two sessions, while the opposition is raring to target it on a host of issues, including the JNU row, dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur.

Raising questions over the process of the appointment of Vice Chancellors of JNU and Delhi University, a number of opposition parties have come together against the government, accusing it of “undermining” the autonomy of the institutions. Naidu had last month met Congress President Sonia Gandhi seeking cooperation for the early passage of the crucial GST and the real estate bills. The Budget session of Parliament will commence on February 23 and will focus largely on the financial business of the government. The General Budget will be presented on February 29.