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India’s Modi appeals for support as parliament reopens

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed on Tuesday for opposition support in pushing through key reforms, as parliament began a new session set to be dominated by corruption allegations against members of his party.

Modi’s right-wing government, which swept to power last year on a pledge to revive the economy, aims to push through a series of reforms during the 21-day session including introducing a new national sales tax.

“We all have to work together to take important decisions for the development of the nation,” Modi told reporters outside parliament in New Delhi.

“I am hopeful that the parliament will live up to the country’s expectations to act as a medium for constructive debate.”

Modi is keen to pass a long-pending national goods and services tax, which aims to replace a myriad of overlapping state duties that often deter investment, as well as a controversial bill that makes it easier for businesses to buy land.

But the opposition Congress party has indicated it will use the current monsoon session to demand the resignation of a number of scandal-hit Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

The opening of the upper house was immediately disrupted by opposition members protesting at Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s role in helping corruption-hit former cricket boss Lalit Modi to obtain a passport.

Congress has also urged Modi to sack Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state, where thousands of people are alleged to have bribed officials and politicians in return for jobs or places in training institutes.

The lower house shut down for the day soon after reopening to allow lawmakers to mark the recent death of a member.

The BJP does not have a majority in the upper house, and analysts say opposition parties will try to prevent progress in the current session, which comes ahead of elections in the eastern state of Bihar later this year.

“This will be a very stormy session since the objective is no more to conduct parliamentary business, but to put the government in the dock,” said political analyst K.G. Suresh.

Parliament’s last session was the most productive in recent years, with 23 bills passed, including long-awaited legislation to open the insurance market to foreign companies.

Voters turned against the Congress Party in general elections last year after it was embroiled in a string of corruption scandals during its decade in power.

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