About a month ago, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Amarinder Singh had pitched in against Rahul Gandhi replacing Sonia Gandhi as party chief. “Let Rahul be number two and play that role to eventually take over the party later,” he had argued.
In the Lok Sabha Wednesday, Amarinder could be seen bonding perfectly with the man he sees as number two for now. Amarinder sat next to Rahul, who read the former’s notes on the matter he would try to raise, the alleged molestation on a bus in Moga and the subsequent death of the girl after she was allegedly thrown out.
Amarinder seldom attends Parliament but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan mentioned his name along with others who had given notices for moving adjournment motions. Mahajan, sticking to practice, ruled out the admission of any adjournment motion and suggested those who had given notices raise their issues during zero hour.
Sonia, who was in the first row then, was absent when the House met after an adjournment at noon. It was Rahul who appeared and sat in the second row, between Amarinder and Jyotiradiya Scindia. The papers laid, a discussion on a high court for Telangana ensued. Rahul was seen reading the points prepared by Amarinder.
When Amarinder’s name was called out, TRS MPs were arguing with Law Minister Sadanand Gowda. Amarinder turned his head, as if seeking advice, and Rahul motioned with his head, as if nodding a go-ahead. Amarinder started off, unmindful of the din created by the TRS and ignoring the efforts of three Akali Dal MPs to shout him down. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venakaih Naidu and the Speaker, meanwhile, pointed out that the House had discussed the issue earlier and that Amarinder, therefore, could not raise it all over again.
Amarinder claimed law and order was deteriorating in Punjab and said it had “culminated” in the Moga incident. Describing the din as an attempt to “divert the opinion of the House,” he said Orbit, the company whose bus was involved in the incident, was enjoying police protection.
Orbit is one of several companies where members of the Badal family are stakeholders. Amarinder’s colleagues in the Rajya Sabha, too, demanded that police should also take action against the owners of the bus.
In the Rajya Sabha, it was Ambika Soni who tried to raise the Moga issue. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien did not allow her, saying there was no notice with him. Soni too said there has been a complete breakdown of law and order in Punjab, saying this necessitates the Centre’s intervention.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said while the chair was correct, there were “some matters that come up so urgently”. “We are beseeching the chair to allow us to discuss that… I know it is not in strict adherence to the rules, but because of the importance of this incident, allow us to raise it,” he said. BSP chief Mayawati demanded President’s rule.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi argued it was a state-specific issue and said the state government has taken immediate action against the culprits. With several members trying to raise the issue, the noise forced an adjournment for 10 minutes.
When the House reassembled, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the people running the government in Punjab are the owners of the bus company. “So the police have taken action against only those who were involved in molesting in the girl and not against the owners of the bus… Keeping in view the anger in the state, action should be taken against the owners of the bus,” he said.
With the Congress unrelenting amid opposition from Akali Dal members, the House was adjourned again.