A short and delayed winter session began today and the main opposition Congress has vowed to extract an apology for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh and other party leaders colluded with Pakistani officials at a dinner in Delhi last week in an attempt to influence the Gujarat election. It sets the tone for a stormy session, with the ruling BJP asserting that there is no question of the Prime Minister apologising and that if anyone should, it is the Congress for holding a “secret meeting” with the Pakistanis.
Here’s your 10-point cheat sheet to this story:
1.Speaking ahead of the session this morning, PM Modi asked all parties to work together to make the session fruitful. “I am hopeful and urge all parties to come together, discuss, debate and work for the betterment of the nation,” he said, calling the winter session, which will spill over to the next year, a significant one in which “important bills would be discussed”.
2.As the Lok Sabha convened, PM Modi introduced new members of his cabinet who joined in a reshuffle after the monsoon session of parliament.
3.A series of important meetings are planned today. The union cabinet is meeting, while the BJP will hold a meeting at 3 and will meet its allies at 4 in the evening.
4.The winter session usually begins in the middle of November and is at least a month long. This time it will span only 20 days, with 14 sittings. The last winter session had 21 sittings. Several important bills are expected to be brought up — there are 25 bills pending and 14 new ones. A GST bill and one on “triple talaq” will be taken up.
5.At an all-party meeting on Thursday, hours after Gujarat voted in the last phase of the assembly elections, PM Modi appealed for a smooth session without disruptions, and said he welcomed discussion on “all issues” that the opposition wants to raise.
6.The opposition has other plans, cut up as it is with the ruling BJP-led government for trimming the winter session; it alleges it was done because of the elections in Gujarat, PM Modi’s home state.
7.The opposition is also clear that the last word has not been said in the row over the PM Modi’s Pakistan comments made at an election rally in Gujarat. “Either the government should prove the claim or the Prime Minister must apologise… Nothing short of an apology will satisfy us,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
8.The government has already rejected the demand; Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has underlined that the Congress should not expect an apology for the attack over the dinner hosted by suspended Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar, which Mr Jaitley described as a “misadventure”.
9.The issue was raised at Thursday’s all-party meeting by the Congress and Left leader D Raja was talking about PM Modi’s attack on Dr Manmohan Singh when the Prime Minister walked in. He refused to be drawn into the controversy, making his appeal for a disruption-free session and also asking parties to rise above partisan politics to support simultaneous elections.
10.The row came amid a bitter and often personal campaign for Gujarat, which also saw PM Modi urge the state to punish the Congress for its leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “neech” slur against him.