ON a day Parliament was disrupted once again, Rajya Sabha saw an exchange between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury. The government accused the Opposition of being interested in demonetisation only for “two minutes” for “television coverage” and said it was evading the “substantive discussion” pending in the House.
“The Opposition is playing tricks. The government is certainly not ready to accept this. If the Opposition has guts, it must agree to restarting the discussion,” Jaitley said.
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As Opposition parties kept insisting the prime minister be present, Yechury cited a precedent of the debate on the 2G scam. Jaitley replied without naming anyone: “You may have a right to assume that importance yourself, but there is no such precedent in this House since 1952 that the PM must be here to listen to each and every member. The PM has many other responsibilities.”
Yechury responded, “I don’t suffer from any self-importance. I spoke when the PM was not here. I don’t suffer from that. But the point is, respect the sentiments of the House. The House was respected when we discussed the 2G scam. It was respected when we discussed the coal scam and the same thing must be respected here.” About the discussion on the 2G scam, he said: “We all insisted, including me, that the PM should be present to listen to us. For two full days, the then PM was present…”
Jaitley said, “If the Opposition wants a debate, let them be honest enough to say yes or no; let them not impose unreasonable and impossible conditions for a debate.”
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Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to know who should be held responsible for 84 deaths due to demonetisation. In a statement during zero hour, he wondered why RBI has stopped giving information about money deposited in banks. Jaitley raised a point of order, saying members cannot raise an issue on which a substantive discussion is already pending. His objection was upheld by the chair.