Congress’s leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury mounted a veiled attack on the government while speaking in Lok Sabha after the Speaker’s election on Wednesday.
Congratulating Om Birla on his election to the office of Speaker, Chowdhury pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said outside the House that henceforth there will be no “ruling (paksh) or opposition (vipaksh) — only an impartial system”. Calling it a “very good concept”, he pointed out that India has a Parliamentary system, and that in a multi-party democracy many sides exist besides the ruling side and the Opposition. “Only you have to be neutral,” he urged Birla.
Citing Tuesday’s incidents of slogan-shouting in Lok Sabha during the oath-taking ceremony, he said slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” and “Allah-hu Akbar” were “not good”.
“It is a question of the dignity of the House,” he said, and explained his point with a Hindi couplet: “Woh hi Ram jo Dashrath ka beta, woh hi Ram jo ghar-ghar mein leta; woh hi Ram jagat pasera, woh hi Ram sabse nyara.”
He followed this with “La Ilaha…”, and cited an Urdu couplet: “Jab Mullah ko Masjid mein Ram nazar aayein, jab pujari ko Mandir mein Rehman nazar aayein, duniya ki surat badal jayegi, jab insaan ko insaan mein insaan nazar aayein.”
Pointing out that 67 per cent of India’s 90 crore voters cast their vote in the Lok Sabha polls, he said, “In Malogam, a village in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, which has only one voter, six officials collected his solitary vote after a two-day trek of 6 km. We have to maintain the dignity of this democracy.”
He said, “I want to tell the Prime Minister that the intention of our party is clear. We believe in debate, dissent and decision, but we should get an opportunity. You (Speaker) have the responsibility to run Parliament properly because you are the presiding officer, the custodian of this House.”
Chowdhury sought to bring it to Birla’s attention that many Bills were not referred to standing committees for scrutiny in the previous Lok Sabha. “Following the path of (promulgating) ordinances is also not good,” he said, and maintained that discussions should be held threadbare and all stakeholders should be taken on board in a Parliamentary democracy.
Other Opposition leaders also pleaded for impartiality of the Chair and to ensure that all parties, whether big or small, get ample opportunity to articulate their views. T R Baalu of DMK said: “Sir, you have been selected and elected by the BJP…. Lotus (BJP’s poll symbol) grows in water, lives in water, but water would not stick to lotus. Keeping this in mind, I can only say that maybe the BJP has selected you, but you should be impartial and see that everyone is taken along.”
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of TMC said that a “brute majoritarianism” sometimes affected functioning of the House. “Many times, the Central government acts as if it can govern the whole country,” he said, and was promptly interrupted by Birla, who said this is not the occasion to speak on the matter.
BJD’s Pinaki Mishra made it known that the Speaker will face least problem from his party because it never interrupted proceedings or came into the Well. However, he added, “There is a very dominant government, (and) we will need your protection.”
N K Premachandran of RSP pointed out that he had raised 500 amendments to different Bills during the 16th Lok Sabha, but none of them was accepted by the government. Nama Nageshwar Rao of TRS sought “justice” for all members, while Shyam Singh Yadav of BSP said first-time MPs should also get sufficient time during discussions. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said the Speaker should uphold the theory of separation of powers, and told Birla that he is a referee.