Budget session set to be stormy, Hindu terror issue defused

Parliament
Ahead of the Budget session of Parliament Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was looking forward to a very productive and constructive session.

The Budget session beginning Thursday looks set to be stormy with Opposition vowing to strongly raise issues like corruption and inflation even though government expressed readiness to discuss all issues and order any kind of probe into the chopper scam.

However, a possible confrontation between government and BJP over Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's "Hindu terror" remark was averted on the eve of the session as he expressed regret and the main opposition welcomed it.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj had demanded that Shinde withdraw his comments and tender an apology, failing which the party would boycott him.

The three-month long session will begin with the customary address by President Pranab Mukherjee to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

The session has a heavy legislative agenda, including getting Parliament nod to three ordinances, introduction of as many as 16 bills, consideration and passage of 35 bills.

The Railway Budget will be presented on February 26, the Economic Survey the next day and the General Budget on February 28.

NDA, which held a strategy session here this evening, said it wanted Parliament to function smoothly and would make all efforts in this regard.

However, it said there were lot of "challenges" before the which needed to be raised in Parliament with "full strength".

NDA convenor Sharad Yadav listed these issues as the helicopter scam, other corruption cases, inflation, farmers plight due to drought in Maharashtra and hailstorm in Madhya Pradesh and ordinance on stronger anti-rape laws.

The main opposition's aggressive posturing came even after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other ministers said the government was ready for discussion on any issue and hoped all parties will join hands to find productive, constructive solutions to the formidable challenges facing the nation.

On the helicopter scam which the NDA would be raising on Friday, the government said it is ready for any kind of probe.

With an aim of ensuring a smooth sail of the Budget session, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar held a meeting with leaders of all political parties on Wednesday.

After the meeting, the Prime Minister said he hoped that all political parties will join hands to find productive, constructive solutions to the formidable challenges facing the nation.

"Parliament is the forum for discussions or dialogue and all parties have an obligation to ensure that parliament runs smoothly. I am hopeful and confident that this session is going to be a fruitful session," he told reporters.

Noting that all parties have an obligation to ensure that Parliament runs smoothly, Singh said, "I am hopeful and confident that this is going to be a fruitful session."

Swaraj said parties want discussion on several issues including VVIP chopper scam, Indo-Pak ties in the backdrop of beheading of two Indian soldiers, situation in Maldives, attempts by China to encircle India, severe drought in Maharashtra and plight of farmers due to hailstorm in Madhya Pradesh as also the burden of rising prices on the common man.

Hours later, NDA convenor Sharad Yadav said, "There are several challenges facing the country. The helicopter scam will certainly be raised. Some other scams were left halfway. We will try to raise them too."

On the controversial chopper deal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government is willing for any type of inquiry for which there was a political consensus.

"I have told all political parties that the government is willing to have any type of inquiry for which there is political consensus on the helicopter issue because this is not just an issue concerning corruption. This is an investigation carried out overseas which is a slur on India," Nath said.

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