Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday asked the Prime Minister to focus on evolving a consensus among political parties on key issues of national interest, including security and poverty alleviation.

She said if consensus-building was needed, then “requests based on national interest” should not be challenged. “I met the Prime Minister this morning at a function. He said ‘Sushmaji, you are opposing the Nuclear Liability Bill.' I told him the difference of opinion is only on the cap of Rs.500 crore and we only want the government to redraft the Bill to increase the cap to Rs. 2,100 crore,” she said.

Ms. Swaraj said the government wanted the Bill to be introduced and asked the BJP to take up its reservations in the standing committee.

“Since the pre-legislative discussions are on, we want the government to redraft a few lines and then introduce it,” she said, speaking at a forum organised by media house Jagran Group.

She lamented that the deadlock over the issue continues as the “government wants us to accept its own views on the issue [of the Nuclear Liability Bill].”

Referring to Home Minister P. Chidambaram's offer to resign after the Dantewada incident, she said that while as “constructive Opposition we asked him to continue with his plan to deal with Naxalism, the Congress itself failed to evolve consensus on the issue.”

She said: “Where else will you find such an example of a constructive Opposition...? This is the best example of consensus.”

Ms. Swaraj invited the Prime Minister to select 10 issues of national interest, on which the government and the Opposition could evolve consensus.

She listed national security, transparent defence deals keeping in mind the interests of soldiers, identification of people living below the poverty line based on Indian parameters and not as per the Western standards of calorie consumption, and electoral reforms as some of the important issues.

She said that for the sake of national security, a special law was needed, but there is no consensus on it. “Had the UPA not repealed the POTA, Kasab's two accomplices would not have been acquitted.”

Simultaneous elections

Ms. Swaraj said that instead of wasting time on conducting Assembly elections almost every year, these should be clubbed with Lok Sabha elections.

“This will save time, and the code of conduct will also not have to be applied at regular intervals.”

She said pre-conceived notions and lack of willpower should be kept aside, if healthy consensus had to evolve.

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