Govt says Speaker above party lines, slams Nath’s remarks

The Centre on Monday slammed Congress leader Kamal Nath for his remarks that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision on the issue of grant of Leader of Opposition status could be “flavoured” by BJP, saying it is “unfortunate” as the Speaker is above party lines.

The remarks were made by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu even as the government reached out to the opposition ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament, saying it was ready to discuss any issue raised by the opposition.

“Government has no reservation on any issue. We are willing to discuss each and every issue of national importance,” Mr. Naidu told reporters after the meeting which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The breakfast meeting convened by Mr. Naidu was also attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh and 45 leaders of various parties including Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda.

Responding to questions over Mr. Nath’s remarks on the LOP issue, Mr. Naidu said, “It is unfortunate that such a comment has been made by a senior leader like Kamal Nath. He must have made such a comment based on his own experience. The matter will be dealt by the Speaker according to the rulebook and the precedent. Once elected, the Speaker is above the party.”

Mr. Nath had on Sunday said that the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision on the issue of Leader of Opposition in Lower House could be “flavoured” by BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister also made it clear that the issue of LOP was not raised at Monday’s meeting which saw a number of party leaders raising the issue of price rise including hike in petroleum products and the recent hike in rail fares.

Mr. Kharge said price rise and inflation issues were raised at the meeting.

Speaking separately, the Lok Sabha Speaker said she expects that Parliament will run smoothly and important issues are discussed and sought the cooperation of all members and assured them to give maximum possible time to raise issues.

She, however, did not comment on Mr. Nath’s comments saying she will not react to media reports. “I will discuss if somebody comes to me, some leader from Congress or any other party, and raises any issue.”

Mr. Naidu said the meeting took place in an amicable atmosphere and it was a good beginning.

Thanking the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Home Minister for attending the breakfast meeting, he said it is a tradition to call all parties at the beginning of the Session and the various leaders attending it appreciated it. The leaders of smaller parties, who do not get representation in the Business Advisory Committees, were particularly keen that such meetings should continue.

Mr. Naidu suggested to various leaders raising the issues that they should give notices to the concerned chairperson of the House if they want to raise an issue as government has no reservation on discussing any issue.

When some members raised the chairmanship of Standing Committees, he said the same will be given according to representation of various parties. “All parties will be given membership in the Committees,” he said, adding the government understands the importance of making such panels truly representative of all sections.

AIADMK leader M. Thambidurai raised the issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen, the problem over Katchatheevu, Women Reservation Bill and interlinking of rivers.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien raised the issue of price rise and rail fare hike.

BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra lamented that the issue of reservation in promotion for SC/ST was treated in a

“ritualistic” manner by previous UPA government and wanted forward movement on this.

TRS leader K. Keshav Rao wanted urgent attention to genuine demands arising out of division of Andhra Pradesh.

CPI(M)’s P. Karunakaran wanted a discussion on the issue of atrocities on women and also on price rise. He complimented the government for quick action in bringing back Indian nurses from strife-torn Iraq.

Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) suggested a detailed discussion on the situation in the region following SAARC leaders attending the swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister, Prime Minister’s visit to Bhutan and External Affairs Minister’s visit to Bangladesh.

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