New Delhi | The Budget Session of Parliament, the last of the present Lok Sabha, begins on Wednesday with an address by President Droupadi Murmu to a joint sitting, as the government sought cooperation of opposition parties to ensure the proceedings run smoothly.
All eyes will be on the President's address and the interim budget Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents on February 1, as they are likely to offer a glimpse into the ruling BJP's agenda for the Lok Sabha polls, expected in April-May.
Following the customary all-party meeting on the eve the a session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the government sought the cooperation of all the parties for the short session, even as the main opposition Congress raised issues like the alleged attack on Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra in Assam, the alleged "misuse" of probe agencies and the Manipur situation.
Joshi said the main agenda of the 17th Lok Sabha's brief session, set to conclude on February 9, was the President's Address, the presentation of the Interim Budget and the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address with a reply by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress leader K Suresh said the party would raise the issue of unemployment, high inflation, agrarian distress, and the situation in ethnic violence-hit Manipur during the session.
Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the finance minister should include the pending dues to West Bengal on account of various central schemes in the Interim Budget.
"It is unfortunate that a chief minister has to sit on a dharna to demand timely allocation of central dues to the state," he said.
Samajwadi Party leader S T Hassan demanded steps to strengthen the Places of Worship Act that freezes the status of religious places of worship as they existed on August 15, 1947, and prohibits their conversion while ensuring the maintenance of their religious character.
Hassan's demand came in the wake of demands to hand over the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to the Hindu community.
Emerging from the customary all-party meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Joshi described the interaction as "very cordial" and said the government was ready to discuss every issue during the brief session.
Joshi said the government did not have any legislative agenda for the Budget Session and its thrust would be on the President's Address, debate on the Motion of Thanks, presentation of the Interim Budget and the budget for Jammu and Kashmir.
"They have given suggestions, but since this is the last session of the present Lok Sabha. We have said, we will give them an opportunity in the next session," Joshi said in a lighter vein amid confidence in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance that it will retain power in the elections.
Congress Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha Pramod Tiwari, who represented the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, said he raised the issue of the "violent attack" on the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi in Assam and the state government's curbs on it.
An "unwritten dictatorship" prevails in the country, he said and accused the central government of misusing probe agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to target opposition leaders such as Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.
Tiwari said he raised these issues after consulting opposition parties.
NCP President Sharad Pawar, JD(U)'s Ram Nath Thakur and TDP's Jayadev Galla were among the leaders present at the meeting at the Parliament House complex.
While Murmu's address is likely to cover a gamut of issues, from political to cultural and economic, to highlight the government's achievements during the 10 years under Modi, political watchers will be keen to see the measures announced by Sitharaman ahead of the polls.
Though Parliament will be passing only the interim budget for the rest of the tenure of the government, the minister may make a host of proposals to woo different voting blocs to highlight what the government will do if reelected.
Then Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had made a host of proposals, including tax sops and welfare measures, in the interim budget he had presented in 2019 before the elections, which saw the government retain power with a stronger mandate.