Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI)
A day after the Centre gave a peek into its plans for the five-day special session of Parliament being held from September 18 to September 22, it has not left either the Opposition or the general public satisfied about the plans of the ruling party. The Opposition, led by the members of the INDIA bloc has dubbed it "a diversionary tactic" of the government, calling it "disappointing" and "non-exhaustive", referring to the aspect that the shared agenda for the session is surface level, and does not disclose the plans for the entire session.
The government has been keeping the plans it has for the session under wraps ever since a tweet on a social media platform by the minister for parliamentary affairs has led to a wide range of speculations on what could be the agenda for the five days, even though most, if not all, expect it to be a significant chapter in Indian legislation and politics.
The government itself released a list of items that would be brought into the session in a bulletin but laced the pronouncement with suspense by saying it should not be considered exhaustive. The Congress Party could hardly sense a taste of victory in the release of the bulletin, though the government did it after its supremo Sonia Gandhi wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to know why the agenda was being kept a secret.
Predictably, Congress leader K.C. Venugopal tweeted on X (formerly Twitter) to share his disappointment, saying, "… the agenda announced thus far does not speak of a single issue of public importance. 140 crore Indians are sorely disappointed…" (paraphrased).
The agenda itself as released thus far are reasonably commonplace and insipid, at a time when the entire polity, including most members of Parliament of all parties, including the ruling BJP, are expecting big fireworks and game-changers.
Set for discussion in the special session in both the Houses — Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — is a discussion on the "75-year journey of the Indian Parliament", for which the Opposition chided the government, saying the same topic had been discussed a couple of years earlier.
There is a perceptible and palpable sense of apprehension amongst the leaders of most parties, especially the Opposition, that the "real agenda" for the session would be declared in the end, more in the nature of a political ambush, a blitzkrieg, which would leave the Opposition unprepared, off-guard, and would be a complete surprise. The feeling was vented by several leaders, including Derek O’Brien, the MP from Trinamul Congress, when he spoke of how the government could "add some business at the last minute", adding, "They will be up to dirty tricks."
As per the Parliament bulletin, the special session could see a rather contentious bill seeking to exclude the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from a committee to appoint the chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners (ECs), the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill and The Post Office Bill, among others.
As Indian democracy enters a golden phase, the last quarter of a century of Independence, the government must be more transparent and open about its agenda, both to the Opposition and the citizens of the nation.