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Govt reaches out to Opp ahead of Budget session

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (IANS): The NDA government Sunday reached out to the Opposition ahead of the budget session with Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi over its agenda that includes the contentious ordinance on land acquisition.

The government agenda for the session beginning Monday includes 44 items of financial, legislative and non-legislative business.

Naidu met Sonia Gandhi in the morning and later met leaders of opposition parties over lunch to seek their cooperation, but they all conveyed their concern on the land ordinance. Though the government has not spoken of making changes in it so far, there now appears to be a rethink on the issue.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who Saturday met some farmers' representatives on the issue, was told by them that the government had brought the measure without proper consultations, said sources. The representatives also asked him to ensure that their views are taken into account before bringing the bill replacing the ordinance in parliament.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is apparently concerned about activist Anna Hazare's protest against the ordinance and any perception of the party being viewed as anti-farmer. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is also expected to lead a protest on the issue.

Naidu told Sonia Gandhi that the land ordinance was brought after consultations with various states and stakeholders but she said that her party had its concerns.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present at the all-party meeting, said it was the collective responsibility of all parties to run the house.

After the meeting, Naidu told reporters that it was "very successful".

"The general view expressed was that parliament should function smoothly. Focus should be on financial matters since this is the budget session," he said.

Naidu said there was broad consensus on "four-five ordinances" of the six that need to be replaced by bills in the first half of the session ending March 20 but the opposition parties raised objections to the one on land acquisition and the government conveyed its willingness to address any issue.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the party will support the government on bills and ordinances which benefit the common man but not those which are "anti-people".

The opposition parties are expected to raise a number of issues including attacks on churches, ceasefire violations by Pakistan and concerns of Tamil fishermen.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has also called a meeting of leaders of parties in the house to ensure its smooth functioning.

The session will begin with President Pranab Mukherjee's address to members of both houses of parliament.

The financial business (11 items) include presentation of and discussion on general and railway budget, voting on demands for grants, supplementary demands for grants for 2014-15 and excess demands, if any, for 2013-14.

The rail budget will be presented Feb 26, Economic Survey Feb 27 and general budget Feb 28.

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