Will oppose the ‘continued attack’ on State governments, says Congress

The comment comes ahead of the second meeting of Opposition parties; all eyes on AAP on whether it considers the statement as the public assurance it was expecting from the Congress to resist the Delhi services Bill in Parliament

July 15, 2023 11:00 pm | Updated July 16, 2023 12:41 am IST - New Delhi

  Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh. | Photo Credit: ANI

Ahead of the second meeting of Opposition parties, the Congress — without directly referring to the Delhi services Bill — said that it will oppose the “continued attack” on the “constitutional rights and responsibilities of the democratically elected State government” by the Centre and by its appointees such as Governors.

Opposition parties will come together at Bengaluru on July 17 and 18. The Congress, who is hosting the meeting, also said that the Aam Aadmi Party figures in the list of 24 parties that are expected to attend.

The government has listed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2023 for the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament that begins on July 20. The Aam Aadmi Party, which sees the Bill as an attempt by the Centre to remotely run the Delhi administration by giving control over the bureaucracy to the Lieutenant Governor’s office, has run a sustained campaign seeking support of all anti-BJP parties to defeat the Bill in Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition is numerically in a better position.

AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had declared that his party would find it “difficult” to attend the next Opposition meeting if the Congress does not publicly assure them that it will oppose the Bill in Parliament.

To a pointed question on what would be the Congress stand on the Bill, the party’s general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh said, “The Congress party has always fought against the Modi government’s assaults on the constitutional rights and responsibilities of democratically elected State governments and local bodies. This assault comes directly and from appointees of the Modi government like the Governor. We have opposed it both inside and outside the Parliament.” He was speaking to media at the end of the 90-minute-long meeting of the party’s Parliamentary Strategy Group.

It is not yet clear whether the AAP will revise its position and be satisfied with the Congress’ overarching statement on the subject. “As far as I know AAP is one of the 24 parties, coming to Bangalore for the Opposition meet,” Mr. Ramesh said. So far, there has been no reaction from AAP.

In the first Opposition meeting on June 23 in Patna, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge — speaking in front of heads of various parties — had assured Mr. Kejriwal that the Congress will oppose the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. Even then, Mr. Kejriwal, hours after the Patna meeting concluded, issued a statement saying without a public assurance from the Congress on the issue, the AAP would find it difficult to participate in the next meeting.

While briefing the reporters on the decisions taken in the Parliamentary Strategy Group’s meeting, the issue of assault on the federal structures was third in the tally. Mr. Ramesh began by saying, “Clearly, the most important issue for us is the situation in Manipur. The Prime Minister’s continued silence, the Home Minister’s continued ineffectiveness, the complete failure of the State government, the complete divide that exists in Manipur society... we will certainly demand a discussion in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. We would like the Prime Minister to take the Parliament and the country into confidence on the current situation and the challenges that we face in Manipur.”

Mr. Ramesh also said that the party will demand for Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s resignation. He said, “ A lot of high-profile inaugurations take place but basic issues of rail safety have got ignored, the latest reflection of that was the ghastly tragedy in Balasore. We don’t have an opportunity for a discussion on Indian Railways, because the Rail Budget has been discontinued. So, we will use this session to raise fundamental issues of rail safety, which has taken a backseat.”

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress sources said that party president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would flying to Bengaluru for the meeting, but would not attend the dinner on July 17, following her doctor’s advice. Ms. Banerjee underwent a surgery on her left knee recently. But she will be attending the next day’s meeting that is expected to last three hours.

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