The Opposition’s blockade of Rajya Sabha over Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s controversial remark ended Monday with some give-and-take by both the sides.
The impasse was broken after the Opposition did not press for its demand for a “motion of censure” and the government agreed to let Chairman Hamid Ansari make a general statement on behalf of the House appealing ministers and MPs to “maintain civility in public discourse” and uphold constitutional values.
Both the government as well as the Opposition claimed victory. The government’s floor managers said Ansari’s statement was just an “advisory”, far from the motion of censure. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, said they compelled the government to relent from its position that the Sadhvi issue was a “closed chapter” after PM Narendra Modi’s statement disapproving her “Ramzaadon-versus-haramzaadon” remark.
“This House, while acknowledging the statement of Prime Minister made in this House on the 4th of December, appeals to all Members of Parliament, ministers and leaders of all political parties to maintain civility at all costs in public discourse for the successful functioning of parliamentary democracy and to uphold our commitment to constitutional values,” Ansari read out from a prepared text when the House reassembled at 12.25 pm after three adjournments.
The Opposition wanted the government’s statement to read: “This House strongly disapproves any statement made by any MP and a member of the Union Council of Ministers that is inflammatory, derogatory and violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the law of the land.”
The government, however, did not agree to this but suggested the Chairman can make a statement. Ministers Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu then sat with leaders of nine opposition parties in the Chairman’s chamber to find a mutually accepted formulation. The Opposition first agreed to drop the key word “inflammatory” from the statement. The government then climbed down from its position that the statement should not be on the behalf of the House.
After the statement, the House went ahead with the scheduled work. While the government sources claimed it was a face-saver for the Opposition, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury told The Indian Express: “It was a life saver for the government.”
Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said: “The government failed to break the Opposition unity and was compelled to relent.”
Sadhvi in Lok Sabha
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the BJP MP from Fatehpur whose controversial remark at a rally in Delhi led to blocking of House proceedings by the Opposition for a week, attended Lok Sabha for four-and-a-half hours on Monday. Avishek G Dastidar and Raghvendra Rao report:
11.01 am: MoS Food Processing Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti enters Lok Sabha and takes seat in the fifth row. As Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma replies to a question, MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi shouts: “Who does Taj Mahal belong to?” This leads giggles. Jyoti joins in with a smile. Keeps looking at her lap, presumably at her cellphone or documents.
Noon: Question hour ends. Sadhvi is the only MP in her row before two BJP members sit at the far end, leaving the seats between them and her unoccupied.
12.15 pm: MSME Minister Kalraj Mishra gives her a short bow of acknowledgement while leaving. She bows in return and continues to listen to various speakers with a bored look.
12.17 pm: Stands up when L K Advani is leaving the House. Bows to him and he waves at her in return.
12.19 pm: She slouches at her seat, takes off her glasses and headphones. Keeps looking at speakers, but remains expressionless. Moments later shares a joke with Kirti Azad who is sitting across the aisle.
12.22 pm: BJP MP Ratan Lal Kataria sits with Sadhvi. They chat for a while, before Kataria takes seat in the row behind.
12.25 pm: BJP MP Priyanka Singh Rawat comes to her and they talk for a while. Sadhvi hangs her headphone on the microphone.
12.35 pm: She comes across to the corner of the next row, behind Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu and apparently asks for something to which Prabhu is seen nodding.
12.36 pm: She turns around to chat with fellow BJP MPs sitting behind. She rests her hand on the mic — her fingers studded with rings.
12.40 pm: AAP MP Bhagwant Mann sits next to her only to speak to Prabhu. Sadhvi ignores him.
12.41 pm: BJP MP Anju Bala sits next to her. They share a laugh.
12.42 pm: Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya walks up to her. They chat and laugh for a while.
12.50 pm: Looking aimlessly at the House proceedings, she yawns.
12.52 pm: Wears her headphone, but it turns out that an AIADMK MP is speaking in Tamil. With a smile, she takes off the headphones and so does Anju Bala. They chat.
12.59 pm: She talks to Suresh prabhu once again.
1.05 pm: Leaves the House for lunch.
2.12 pm: Jyoti is seen sitting on an aisle seat in fifth row. She exchanges some words with Kirti Azad. Both smile. She then sits listening intently to the matters being raised under rule 377 by the Lok Sabha MPs.
2.21 pm: As BJP MP from Ahmedabad Kirit P Solanki begins speaking on need to establish a centre for cotton mills in Gujarat, Jyoti puts on the headphones.
2.24 pm: MoS Urban Development Babul Supriyo gestures to her to allow him to cross over and occupy the seat next to her. Both exchange words and smile.
2.55 pm: As a verbal duel erupts between TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee and BJP’s S S Ahluwalia, Jyoti gradually shifts to the other corner of the fifth row. From here, she’s again seen intently hearing the discussion on natural calamities.
3.30 pm: She leaves.