The Lok Sabha presented an unfamiliar sight on the first day of the budget session. It was top leaders of the BJP — with a huge new crop of party colleagues with them — who were sitting quietly while all the ruckus was being created by their rivals. Sonia Gandhi was goading the Congress flock to stand up and storm the well. And among the protesters in the aisle was Rahul Gandhi.
Over the past 10 years, it used to be the BJP pressing a demand for a debate on price rise by way of an adjournment motion — involving voting and a possible censure — and the Congress parliamentary affairs minister arguing that it could do so under Rule 193, which could mean suspension.
Depending on the issue — price rise, rail fare hike or the Polavaram dam — those in the well included Congress, NCP, Trinamool Congress, TRS, Aam Aadmi Party, RJD, Samajwadi Party and Left-party MPs. There were signs of some backroom coordination between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress — Trinamool group leader Kalyan Banerjee had darted across to Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge and hurriedly exchanged notes before the proceedings began.
MPs of the AIADMK and the BJD, however, made no attempt to cause disorder, obviously because they had no intention to pitch themselves against the BJP-led government.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has ascended to power riding a huge wave of popularity, found himself listening to slogans against him barely a month later. Protesting opposition members, particularly Kalyan Banerjee, made it a point to try ensuring he noticed and heard everything.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan first tried to run question hour, but gave up after some 20 minutes and adjourned the House until noon. When the House reassembled, she adjourned it again till 2 pm though it was not particularly unruly. And after it met at 2 pm, it was adjourned for the day in minutes.
Congress deputy leader Amarinder Singh sought the admission of an adjournment motion to discuss price rise. Pointing out that the Rajya Sabha had already started a discussion on the matter, he wondered why was it not possible in the Lok Sabha. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government was ready for a debate anytime under Rule 193. Speaker Mahajan informed the members that she had disallowed an adjournment motion and a discussion under Rule 193 could be held when members gave a notice for that. She told Trinamool members also that she had not admitted their adjournment motion over the rail fare hike. She disallowed a TRS notice too over the Polavaram project.
The battle lines could undergo a change Tuesday. The CPM plans to raise Trinamool member Tapas Pal’s recent controversial remarks. “We know Mamata Banerjee has advised him to stay away during the session, but we won’t spare him,” a CPM member said.