Oppn forms united front to take on Govt as session sets off today

*To present their stand before Guv during Address

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Jan 1: In one of the rarest show of unity, all Opposition parties today decided to jointly take on the PDP-BJP coalition Government in budget session of the Legislature that sets off tomorrow with Governor NN Vohra’s Address to joint session of the Legislature. On the other, the coalition partners have also braced themselves up to effectively counter the Opposition.
Vohra would address a joint sitting of both Houses (Assembly and Council) at the Central Hall of Legislature at 11 am tomorrow after which the two Houses would separately meet for obituary reference to those members of the Legisla-ture and other Parliamentarians, who died during last six months.
While PDP, BJP and People’s Conference, the three coalition partners had met at the official residence of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti over a dinner yesterday to devise Alliance strategy for the budget session, which would be third of this Government, all Opposition parties tonight met at the residence of former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah tonight over the dinner to give final touch to their ‘Plan of Action’ against the Government.
Initially, the National Conference legislators met at party headquarters, Sher-i-Kashmir Bhawan under the chairmanship of NC Legislature Party leader Omar Abdullah. Later, legislators (both MLAs and MLCs) of all Opposition parties including National Conference, Congress, CPM and PDF met jointly at Omar’s residence at the dinner and decided to take on the Government very effectively on host of issues including over five-month long Kashmir unrest, which took the toll of about 90 civilians after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen divisional commander Burhan Wani.
All MLAs/MLCs of four Opposition parties-NC, Congress, CPM and PDF attended the dinner meeting at Omar Abdullah’s residence and, according to insiders, they were unanimous that the PDP-BJP coalition Government headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has failed to deliver and should be taken to task during the budget session. Apart from legislators, PCC (I) president GA Mir and Sham Lal Sharma, vice president also attended the meeting.
“A broad agreement has been reached to put up united front by all opposition parties in both Houses of the Legislature, which is very significant development and had never happened in the past including two previous budget sessions of PDP-BJP coalition Government,” sources said, adding the Opposition parties were of the view that the Government has miserably failed on all fronts and they should highlight the major issues like Kashmir unrest, erosion of Article 370 and lack of development.
“The Opposition parties would also keep their point before the Governor during his Address tomorrow as he happens to be head of the State and represents the Government while reading the Address,” sources said.
They decided that the Opposition parties would make the budget session eventful and the Government accountable without giving any escape route to the Government. They also agreed to hold joint meetings on regular basis during the session to devise their strategy as per the emerging situation.
The National Conference has 15 MLAs and Congress 12 while CPM and PDF have one MLA each (MY Tarigami and Hakim Mohammad Yasin). Two Independent MLAs-Pawan Gupta (Udhampur) and Engineer Rashid are likely to be neutral and project issues on their own by maintaining equidistance from treasury and opposition benches.
Insiders said the Opposition parties have thrashed out issues to be raised during the budget session in such a way that the stand of all political parties on variety of issues wasn’t compromised and unity of the Opposition is maintained during the session.
While Kashmir unrest, which continued for past about five months taking toll of about 90 civilians, has been identified by the Opposition parties as the core issue. The “governance” is another issue, which the Opposition parties would highlight as, they claimed, that the PDP-BJP Government has failed to deliver.
The treasury benches have already finalized their strategy during the dinner meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, which indicated that the coalition partners would stay calm, won’t overreact to the provocative issues that had the potential of polarization and highlight the good governance and developmental works done by the Government.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta has, meanwhile, sought support from both treasury and opposition benches to help him in smooth functioning of the budget session and highlight the issues of public importance to get them address from the Government.
He said the Assembly Secretariat has received 1154 questions from the MLAs and it should be the duty of both Government and Opposition members to ensure that questions are discussed in the House and their replies given. He hoped that there would be healthy debate on the Governor’s Address, budget, grants of Departments and legislative business.
This will be third budget session of the PDP-BJP Government, the first one being in March-April 2015, the second in June 2016 and the third in January-February 17. Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu will present general budget for the year 2017-18 on January 10.