A belligerent Congress on Tuesday raised concern over the impartiality of the Chair in the Lok Sabha, eliciting strong protests from the Treasury benches with the government asserting that the Speaker cannot be “threatened”.
Noisy protests led to two brief adjournments of the House.
The ruckus began after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to make a statement on the cancellation of a food park in Amethi, an issue raised by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi last week in the House.
Congress members created din questioning how the government was being allowed to speak on the same issue repeatedly whereas their party’s requests for adjournment motions are rejected by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
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Expressing concern over the Chair allowing the government to issue statements repeatedly on the same issue, Congress member Deepender Hooda said it was not natural justice.
“This is not natural justice. This is not acceptable… It is not a personal aspersion. We believe that the Chair has not been fair,” he said as he raised a point of order quoting rule 356 of the House procedures.
“You cannot allow repetition, you cannot allow the government to repeat five times,” Hooda noted adding that the government side gave their version about five times in the House.
Rejecting Hooda’s contention that the food park issue was talked about five times in the House, Mahajan asked the member to first go through the records and then come back. “Are you challenging me,” she asked.
“If you don’t want me as a Speaker, then I have nothing to say,” a visibly upset Mahajan said.
Taking objection to Hooda’s remarks, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “you cannot threaten the Speaker… no member should challenge the Speaker.”
When the House reconvened after the second ten-minute adjournment at noon, Hooda expressed “deep regret” over his comments, saying it was never his intention to challenge the Speaker’s ruling and he only wanted to question the government’s stand.
“While raising the issue, if some words were said which were (questioning) about the authority and dignity of the Speaker, then I express deep regret. It was not my intention,” Hooda said.
Urging the Speaker to use her powers “judiciously”, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that just because the government has the power, “you should not allow them”.
He said that while opposition adjournment motions are rejected, the government is given opportunitites to repeatedly talk about the same issue.
“We are very much hurt. We cannot tolerate such things,” he said.
As the Treasury benches protested, Kharge challenged them saying, “I am ready to face any action… remove me from membership. Injustice cannot be tolerated”.
Explaining her stance on rejection of adjournment motions moved by the Congress members, Mahajan said in such instances the members are given opportunity to raise matters during Zero Hour.
“I have written records …,” she said adding that she has allowed members to raise issues through various means.
Members from the Treasury benches, including Union Minister Piyush Goyal, were on their feet protesting the remarks and were even heard saying that it was breach of privilege.
Earlier, Minister Harsimrat Kaur read out the statement on the cancellation of Shaktiman Mega Food Park in Amethi amid din as Congress members protested in the Well.
Some Congress members were also seen raising the issue of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari with regard to a CAG report alleging irregularities in loan extended to a family-linked firm of the Minister.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh tried to pacify the Opposition saying as per his word, he had spoken to Kaur and a detailed statement regarding the food park was sent at Rahul’s residence the same day.
He said there is no harm if a clarification is made more than once. “What is the objection, I don’t understand.”
YSR Congress members too were in the Well holding placards demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh.