Dinner effort to broker peace in Rajya Sabha

Sources said Ansari did his best to facilitate informal talks but a compromise was not certain. “There is an opportunity but both sides have to be willing to grab it,” one source said.

Written by Abantika Ghosh , Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi | Published:December 1, 2016 2:57 am
parliament, rajya sabha, demonetisation, narendra modi, PM modi, modi government, demonetisation debate, rajya sabha question hour, speaker hamid ansari, hamid ansari broker peace, MPs dinner, india news, indian express news Vice President Hamid Ansari speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Source: PTI Photo/TV GRAB)

Question hour in Rajya Sabha could offer an opportunity to break the logjam over demonetisation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to attend the proceedings to answer questions relating to his office. Sources told The Indian Express the opportunity could be used to restart the discussion on demonetisation, which the Opposition has been insisting should happen only in PM’s the presence and include a reply from him.

Sources said Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari brought up the subject at a dinner he hosted for MPs Wednesday. Ansari was said to be very keen that the two sides use this opportunity to climb down from their positions and resume parliamentary work. However, neither side is learnt to have given any firm indication to the Vice President about its plans for Thursday.

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The government has not entirely rejected the possibility of the PM replying at the end of the discussion but does not want to be seen as agreeing to this under pressure. However, ministers have ruled out the PM apologising for his remark outside Parliament that the Opposition was protesting because they hadn’t got enough time to convert their unaccounted money.

Sources said Ansari did his best to facilitate informal talks but a compromise was not certain. “There is an opportunity but both sides have to be willing to grab it,” one source said. It is possible Ansari might convene a formal meeting of parties to broker a compromise Thursday morning.

Some 24 MPs are still to speak on demonetisation in Rajya Sabha and a middle ground that could be proposed is that the PM should stay for some important speakers and make an intervention while the Opposition climbs down from its demand that he sit through the entire discussion.

For now, however, both sides see higher political capital in the impasse. The Opposition is persisting with the allegation that Modi is running away from a Parliament debate and the government with the accusation of disruptive tactics.

On Thursday, the last time Rajya Sabha debated demonetisation, Modi had come for question hour. Though he did not intervene, most major parties managed to put their views on record, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh. However chaos returned after lunch when Modi did not return.