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THE Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day on Tuesday afternoon after Congress members raised slogans in the well demanding that voting take place on a private members Bill for grant of special status to Andhra Pradesh and a special package for the state. They also expressed apprehension that the Speaker would declare the Bill a money Bill by Friday, foreclosing any voting on it in the Rajya Sabha.
When Leader of the House Arun Jaitley asserted that the Rajya Sabha cannot vote on a money Bill, Congress members saw it as a sign that “the cat was out of the bag”.
When the issue was raised in the afternoon session, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien suggested that voting could be taken up on Friday. Congress members then demanded an assurance from the Chair that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha would not declare the Bill a money Bill by then.
Due to the ruckus, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAMPA) Bill, 2016, could not be taken up for consideration for the second day in a row.
The protests began soon after Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti had replied on a calling attention motion on farmers in Odisha being affected by construction that Chhattisgarh had done on the Mahanadi river. Congress member K V P Ramchandra Rao, who had introduced the private members Bill on Andhra, walked into the well holding up a placard saying “Implement Special Status for A P State”.
Kurien asked Anand Sharma, deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, to “rein in your members”. He said he was aware that Congress members wanted to discuss the Bill, to which Congress leader Jairam Ramesh clarified that they wanted voting.
Stating that a discussion was only possible on the day allotted for private member Bills, Kurien said it could take place any other day provided the chairman and leader of the House agreed.
“I feel guilty and humiliated that my ruling is not taken seriously,” he added, referring to his decision last week that the CAMPA Bill be taken up and disposed of on Monday.
Ramesh, however, alleged that the BJP had deliberately prevented voting from taking place last Friday. The Bill could not be discussed last week following protests in the House over the Bhagwant Mann controversy.
If the CAMPA Bill was passed, it would earn Andhra Pradesh Rs 2,223 crore, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi argued.
Stating that the current situation was created entirely by the government last Friday, Sharma said the rules provide clearly that if the leader of the House agrees, the House can take up the matter.
Ramesh said, “What guarantee is there that on Friday, the leader of the House will not say that this is a money Bill and voting cannot take place?”
Kurien said Jaitley had made no such statements in the House. “How do you know the Finance Ministers mind? Is there direct communication between the Finance Ministers mind and your mind?”
To this, Ramesh said, “The Finance Ministers mind is on display in the Central Hall, which is abuzz that this is a money Bill.”
With Congress members shouting slogans of “We want voting”, the House was adjourned for half an hour. When the House met again at 4 pm, they again raised slogans in the well.
When CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury sought an assurance that the Lok Sabha Speaker would not decide it a money Bill, Kurien said the private members Bill had become a property of the Rajya Sabha.
Rising to speak on the matter, Jaitley said, “If members want a discussion on Andhra Pradesh at any time, I am open for it… (But) a money Bill cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha even by a private member.”
Ramesh reacted saying, “The cat is out of the bag.” Yechury added, “The leader of the House has proved my apprehensions.”
Jaitley responded, “What you are trying to do is amend the Union Budget. This House cannot do that.”