The Lok Sabha was in a state of turmoil on Friday as well, but there was a difference. In an attempt to prevent Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge from speaking, it was ruling BJP and NDA members who took to slogan-shouting, as Opposition MPs countered. Both sides forced an adjournment of proceedings until next Wednesday.
This was the 16th day of a practically dysfunctional Lok Sabha.
The day started calmly, as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan welcomed a delegation of the National Assembly of Vietnam and thereafter recalled the attack on Parliament House on December 13, 2001. The MPs stood in silence as a mark of respect to the eight Delhi Police, CRPF and Parliament Security Service personnel killed in the terror attack.
Soon as the rituals got over, pandemonium broke out. As Kharge got up to speak, apparently trying to set the ground for a discussion on demonetisation and enable Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to speak on the issue, BJP members, unusually belligerent, got up and created a din to shout down Kharge. The Speaker adjourned the House till 11.30 am.
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When proceedings resumed, Kharge said, “We are ready for debate on demonetisation and its repercussions.” The Speaker called BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi next. Attacking Opposition MPs for leaving the House paralysed all these days, she recalled that President Pranab Mukherjee had said on Thursday that Parliament is not a place for dharnas and asked the Opposition to apologise to the country for paralysing the House.
Opposition members continued shouting slogans as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar intervened to say that the government was ready for a debate. However, he added, “For 16 days, they held the House hostage. The majority wanted to debate, but Congress, TMC and Left members are not allowing the House to function. The situation has reached such a stage that the President had to speak…. They must tender an apology to the people.”
Mahajan adjourned the House a second time, but slogans and counter-slogans carried on even when it resumed at noon. At one stage, senior BJP leader L K Advani, apparently angry at ruling party members creating ruckus, was seen gesturing them to sit down.
The Speaker tried to carry on with business, including introduction of a bill, and Kharge made another attempt to speak. But he was again shouted down by the ruling side. Mahajan then adjourned the House until Wednesday.