The ruling dispensation and the opposition are set for a showdown over a raft of issues including the medical entrance exam irregularities, the Agnipath scheme for the armed forces, price rise and unemployment in the debate on the President’s speech as well as over the election of the deputy speaker.

The INDIA bloc is likely to participate in the discussions in the remaining three days of this session. (ANI)

After its protests over the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate), or NEET-UG, on Friday, leading to disruptions in both Houses of Parliament , the INDIA bloc has decided to participate in the discussions in the remaining three days of this session.

Government functionaries have sounded out important opposition parties for the election of the deputy speaker, a post that has been lying vacant for the past five years. The INDIA group wants to field Samajwadi Party lawmaker of Faizabad Awadhesh Prasad for the position, opposition leaders said.The INDIA bloc have conveyed to the ruling side that they want Prasad as deputy speaker, a leader said, seeking anonymity.

There was, however, no indication that the government will agree to Prasad’s candidature as an MP from the Telegu Desam Party (TDP), the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) biggest ally, is expected to get the deputy speaker’s seat. Opposition leaders have maintained that they will contest the post, just as they fought the election for the Speaker’s seat against the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) candidate Om Birla.

But a larger political battle between the ruling side and the opposition is expected during the debate on the President’s speech. On Friday, the Rajya Sabha managed to start the debate amid massive protests, but the Lok Sabha had to be adjourned as the opposition tried to push an adjournment motion on the NEET-UG issue.

On Sunday, less than 24 hours before the debate resumes in Parliament, Lok Sabha’s Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi issued a video message to the public. “LoP is the strongest democratic tool every Indian has. I assure you, I will raise your voice by raising your problems and needs with full force in the Parliament. LoP belongs to you,” he said.

For many Congress insiders, Gandhi signalled that he will not just raise people’s issues in Parliament but also compel the government to act on it. “Problems of common people such as NEET, price rise, unemployment, the faulty Agnipath scheme and the (alleged) benefits given to the handpicked industrialists will be raised during the debate,” a Congress leader said, seeking anonymity.

Gandhi, who became LoP for the first time, is expected to participate in the discussions on President’s speech, his first major debate as LoP.

In the Lok Sabha, BJP member and former Union minister Anurag Thakur is set to initiate the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address. The motion will be seconded by first-term Lok Sabha member Bansuri Swaraj, the daughter of late BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj.

The opposition’s demand for a debate on NEET-UG rocked both Houses of Parliament on Friday, with Rajya Sabha’s Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge rushing down to the well along with all opposition floor leaders, the Biju Janata Dal (BJP) joining the protests for the first time, and adjournments in the Lok Sabha, where the INDIA bloc has 236 MPs.

Congress MP Phulo Devi Netam fainted in the Upper House during the protests and had been admitted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Thereafter, the entire opposition walked out of the House.

Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla pointed out that it had been decided not to allow Zero Hour and adjournment motions during the debate on the President’s speech. Birla also maintained that all issues (including those around NEET-UG) can be raised during the main debate.

In the Rajya Sabha, chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar slammed the opposition. “The kind of ignoble conduct will hurt every Indian, will put this institution to shame. We are here elected, get the prestige of being members of the upper house, the house of elders,” he said. “If in this house we conduct ourselves in this unruly manner, it is most unfortunate.”