Both sides tried to sound conciliatory in Lok Sabha Monday but the deadlock over demonetisation continued and the House remained almost dysfunctional.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan appealed to members to start a discussion and offered to waive all rules but in vain as the Opposition insisted a vote follow the debate. As a compromise, the Opposition said it could abandon its demand for an adjournment motion in case the government agreed to hold the discussion under rule 184, a censure motion entailing a vote.
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The chair called for the discussion to start under rule 193, which does not entail voting. BJD member B Mahtab was the first listed. When Sudip Bandyopadhyay (TMC) contended that Mahtab was not present, the TRS’s Jithendra Reddy, sitting behind him, quipped, “Main hoon na.” He offered to start right away.
Members of the Congress, TMC and Left, however, trooped into the well and began shouting “voting, voting”, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House first till noon and later till 2 pm.
When the House resumed, Reddy began his speech although he was barely audible. “The way they are obstructing my dear friend’s speech is not at all appreciated,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, who had made the request to the chair to start the discussion.
Reddy said his party and leader K Chandrashekhar Rao extended support to demonetisation. “However, he (Rao) appealed to the prime minister . to work towards eradicating the evil of black economy in to and in all its forms. He also urged the Prime Minister to take measures to mitigate the sufferings of the people in general and informal, unorganised and agriculture sector in particular and provide some exemptions to the common man to withstand the hardships caused by the demonetisation and non-availability of enough of currency in small denominations,” he said.
As the ruckus continued, Arjun Charan Sethi, who was in the chair, adjourned the House for the day.
Earlier, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the demonetisation decision was taken in the national interest. He said nobody was questioning the intent of the step though some parties did feel that there had been some deficiencies in its implementation. He said the government wanted a discussion so that it could listen to the views of the Opposition parties and address the deficiencies.
Incidentally, all the tension on display was restricted to formal proceedings. After the initial adjournment, Reddy was seen shaking hands with Trianmool members. Thereafter, Reddy walked across to Rajnath and was seen chatting with him. The Home Minister was seen patting him.
In the morning, Leader of the Congress group Mallikarjun Kharge had raised the issue by flagging the problems being faced by people due to demonetisation. He said over 100 people had died while standing in queues at banks and ATMs. Kharge said, “We have come down from rule 56 to rule 184, now the government should also come down from rule 193 and agree to rule 184”.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay backed him. So did SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD member Jaiprakash Narain Yadav and CPM leader P Karunakaran.