As many as 18 Opposition parties, led by the Congress, on Thursday announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind's address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session on Friday in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.
Leaders of 16 Opposition parties including Congress, Trinamool, DMK, Shiv Sena, NCP and the Left parties issued a joint statement in which they said they were shocked at the government’s “insensitivity and undemocratic attitude” towards the protesting farmers.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Admi Party (AAP) also separately announced their decision to skip the Presidential address.
These leaders also asserted that “an impartial investigation will reveal the Central Government's nefarious role in orchestrating those events”.
Following the announcement, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on appealed to the opposition to desist from their proposed boycott.
“The government is ready to discuss all issues threadbare and as much time as is required will be set aside when the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of both Houses meet,” said Mr Joshi reacting to the boycott decision.
“The Prime Minister and the BJP Government remain arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response. Shocked by this insensitivity of the Government, we, the following opposition political parties, reaffirming the collective demand for the repeal of the Anti Farmer Laws and in solidarity with the Indian Farmers, have decided to boycott the President’s address to both the Houses of Parliament on Friday, January 29, 2021,” read the joint statement, signed by senior Opposition leaders.
The signatories include Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sharad Pawar (NCP), Derek O’Brien (Trinamool Congress), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), T.R. Baalu (DMK), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Manoj Jha (RJD), Binoy Viswam (CPI), and E. Kareem (CPI-M).
Other signatories included Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and K. Suresh from the Congress, Supriya Sule (NCP), Vaiko (MDMK), T. Siva (DMK), N.K. Premachandran (RSP), Nazir Ahmed Laway (PDP) and Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF).
However, parties including Bahujan Samaj Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, YSR Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Aam Admi Party have not signed the joint the statement even though some of them had protested against the farm laws during its passage last September.
The joint statement noted that though lakhs of farmers were peacefully protesting at the Delhi border for 64 days and had lost over 155 farmers braving cold and rain, the government didn't move from its position.
“Over 155 farmers have lost their lives. The Government remains unmoved and has responded with water cannons, tear gas and lathi charges. Every effort has been made, to discredit a legitimate mass movement through government sponsored disinformation campaign,” the Opposition statement read.
Condemning the violence and expressing regret for the injuries sustained by Delhi Police personnel during the violent clashes on January 26, when groups of protesting reached the Red Fort, the leaders said, “... we believe that an impartial investigation will reveal the Central Government's nefarious role in orchestrating those events”.
The Opposition leaders also said the farm laws were an assault on State governments and violated the spirit of the Constitution.
“If not repealed, these Laws will effectively dismantle the edifice of National Food Security that rests upon — MSP, government procurement and Public Distribution System (PDS). The farm bills were brought without any consultations with States and Farmer Unions and lacked national consensus. Parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed and the Laws were pushed through muzzling the Opposition, in brazen violation of Parliamentary rules, Practices and conventions. The very constitutional validity of these Laws remains in question,” the leaders said.
In a separate statement issued in Chandigarh, the Shiromani Akali Dal also announced a boycott of the President’s address. The Akali Dal, a long time ally of the BJP in the NDA, quit the alliance last year over the farm laws issue.
Arrangements have been made for 144 members of Parliament to be seated in the Central Hall including the Council of Ministers, Chairpersons of various Committees of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, leaders of different parties and groups in both the Houses.
The remaining members of Parliament will be seated in the chambers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as per the Covid induced physical distancing norms.