Parliament again failed to transact any business as the opposition parties today created uproar demanding obituary references to the soldiers killed in terror attack in Nagrota on Tuesday as well as those who died due to harassment after demonetisation.
In the Lok Sabha, the demand was rejected by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who said the operation in Nagrota was still underway and obituary reference can be made only after it is over. In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was ready for a discussion on the terror attack along with that on demonetisation issue.
However, there was uproar in both the Houses, leading to repeated adjournments. The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day just minutes before 1 pm while the Rajya Sabha was adjourned at around 2.15 pm. Earlier, as soon as the Upper House met for the day, Opposition led by Congress and Trinamool Congress raised the demand for obituary reference over the killing of 25 armymen since the surgical strikes on September 29 and the “death of 82 people” due to post-demonetisation hardships.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said there should be an obituary reference for the seven army personnel including two officers killed in terrorist attack at Nagrota armybase near Jammu yesterday as well as for the 82 people who died because of the “wrong policies of government.” As other opposition members joined in, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien got listed papers to be laid on the table.
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Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool) said he had given a notice under rule 267 for an obituary resolution to mourn the martyrdom of 25 army personnel since the surgical strikes across the LoC, and the death of 82 people standing in queues io get valid currency after the ban on 500 and 1000 rupee notes. Kurien, however, said the notice is not permitted.
“It is a serious issue if the House is not ready to pay homage to brave soldiers and those who died because of the wrong policies” of the government, Azad said. Charging government with being insensitive, Mayawati (BSP) said demonetisation was done without preparation and a condolence message has to be brought before the House.
Jaitley said the government was ready for discussion on both the issues mentioned by the Opposition. While the discussion on demonetisation should be resumed, the government is ready for a discussion on the situation along the border, he said.
When Sharad Yadav (JD-U) also spoke on the currency issue, Jaitley snapped at him asking him to first discuss demonetisation within his party and decide if it is against the move or for it. His remark was apparent reference to JD-U Chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar supporting demonetisation.
Yadav shot back, saying his party was not against demonetisation but against the restrictions that have been placed on withdrawals.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) demanded that the government should pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of all those who lost their lives due to hardship caused by demonetisation. The Opposition members then trooped into the Well. Kurien said the government is ready for discussion on both the issues and they should decide which of the two should be discussed first. But Opposition members continued to shout slogans.
With his pleas going unheeded, Kurien adjourned the proceedings till noon. When the House met again, Chairman Hamid Ansari called for Question Hour to be taken up, but the Opposition members were again on their feet raising objections. Soon the members of Congress, TMC, Left, SP, BSP and DMK stood in the aisles and started raising slogans. Later, when they raised slogans of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” the treasury bench members too joined them in shouting the same slogan.
“There is total agreement in the House,” the Chairman commented sarcastically and wondered why the House was not being allowed to run. As the din continued, Ansari adjourned the House till 2 pm. When the House reassembled, protests continued as Opposition members kept on raising their demands. Congress leader Azad demanded a statement from the Defence Minister on the Nagrota attack.
“Defence Minister should come and give the statement. When such a big incident has happened…We want to know the status,” the Leader of Opposition said. To which, Naqvi said, “The Operations are still on. We will give reply at an appropriate time.”
The Chair also said that the issue can be debated later. “Where the country is one, all MPs are one. …What the Minister said is that the operation is going on. After that, information will be shared. We can have debate later,” the the Deputy Chairman said.
Congress member Rajiv Shukla said, “Many of our soldiers have died. Many have died standing in queue after demonetisation. We need to offer condolences to both in this House.” Pramod Tiwari (Cong) said the House has tradition of offering condolences and it should do first. “Modi government’s policies has been such that they is threat to our border security,” he said but did not elaborate.
To this, Deputy Chairman said, “With regard to obituary, we will do at an appropriate time.”
Amid noisy scenes, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “Our soldiers are fighting against enemies. We must be sensitive and united in our approach. Otherwise, it will give wrong message.”
Amid din, TMC leader Derek O’Brien said, “We want the debate (on demonetisation which was initiated on November 16) to continue but the Prime Minister is speaking outside Parliament and painting all political parties in poor light. He should apologise.”
CPI (M) member T K Rangarajan said, “….the government is spreading rumour that bandh was failure. The government should apologise.” Trying to convince the Opposition, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the armymen are fighting at borders and they are still on job. “We are ready for debate on this issue,” he said.
But the unrelenting Opposition MPs assembled near the Chairman’s podium, raising slogans “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.” The Chair expressed happiness over MPs shouting “at least acceptable slogans”. Naqvi said, “We welcome your slogans but come for discussion.”
As slogan-shouting continued, the Chair warned the Opposition members that he would adjourn the House. As the pleas for order went unheeded and Opposition members continued raising slogans demanding resignation of the Defence Minister, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.
The Lok Sabha also saw uproar over the obituary issue after Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge raised it as soon as the House met for the day. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan initially thought he was raising the issue of allowing the Opposition to bring an Adjournment Motion on demonetisation.
When Kharge clarified that he wanted an obituary reference in the memory of the soldiers killed, she said she had no problems in bringing the reference but the details were still pouring in as combing operations were still on.
She said she was aware that seven soldiers have been killed but let the complete report come. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House as it was the day when questions for the Prime Minister’s Office are slated to be raised.
But as Kharge was persistent, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said issues of national security should not be brought into controversy. Most opposition members, including those from Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left, RJD then staged a walkout.
The Speaker said it was sad that the Opposition had raised the issue like this. As the House took up the first question for the day during Question Hour, the Opposition members returned and rushed to the Well demanding Adjournment Motion on demonetisation issue.
The Speaker then adjourned the proceedings till noon. Later, Kharge and Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay expressed regret over the development but blamed the government for its inputs to the Speaker on the matter, a contention Mahajan rejected saying the government had no role in it.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar attacked the Opposition over the matter, saying they should not do politics over martyrdom of soldiers, drawing protests from the Opposition benches. Turning to demonetisation, the Opposition said it is ready for a debate under any rule that entails voting but the government refused to budge from its stand against division of votes. This led to frequent adjournments.
Leaders of several Opposition parties, including Kharge and Bandhopadhyay, expressed willingness to withdraw their demand that the debate be held under Rule 56, which deals with an Adjournment Motion, but said the government also should not insist on debate under Rule 193 which does not entail voting.
BJD also sided with the Opposition and rejected the government’s contention with its leader Bhartruhari Mahtab saying the division of votes was not on black money but the hardships facing people and states following the decision.
Kharge asked the Speaker to decide on any rule that involves discussion and voting. “We are ready. We are not running away from debate,” he said, drawing support from Bandopadhyay.
Ananth Kumar said the people stood with the Narendra Modi government on its action against black money and a divided message should not go out of Parliament on the issue. It should not appear that Parliament is against the measures being taken against black money, he said.
Taking a dig at the government, Mahtab wondered who is dividing Parliament. He said it is neither the Leader of Opposition, nor the Trinamool leader. He said the Opposition was demanding a discussion on the predicament people are facing after demonetisation, with every citizen, every state going through hardships.
Jaitley said if the debate is about hardships facing people, then there is no need for division of votes and the debate should start immediately. Mahajan suggested that a debate should begin in the Zero Hour and Parliament will try to find “something out of the zero” as both sides are divide on rules.
However, the Opposition members trooped into the Well as it became clear that the government was not agreeable to their demand. The Speaker said it was clear that the Opposition did not want a discussion and she adjourned the House till 1245 hours.
Before adjourning the House, the Speaker took up Zero Hour asking members to raise issues of national importance. However, nothing was audbile in the din. When the proceedings resumed, the Opposition again raised the demand for discussion to be held under rules which entails voting.
Mahajan said she had given one chance to the Opposition and was ready to allow them to proceed with the debate. However, the dissatisfied Opposition members stormed into the Well again and amidst continued sloganeering, the House was adjourned for the day.