July 24, 2021 4:00:53 am
With the BJP Government not yielding to the demand for a discussion on the Pegasus spyware phone hacking scandal and the Opposition remaining firm on answers from it, Parliament remained stalled for the fourth day Friday. In the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool Congress MP Santanu Sen who tore IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s statement Thursday was suspended for the remaining part of the session, leading to more uproar.
The Lok Sabha, too, could not transact any business. Barring a discussion on the Covid situation in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday, the first week of the Monsoon Session was a complete washout, primarily over the hacking revelations.
In the Rajya Sabha, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan moved a motion seeking the suspension of Sen “for his unruly behaviour unbecoming of a Member of Rajya Sabha… snatching a copy of the statement from the Minister… and tearing it”.
Amid protests by Opposition members, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced that Sen “stands suspended for the remaining part of the session”.
The MPs of the Trinamool Congress and other Opposition parties protested, saying they were not given an opportunity to respond. TMC’s floor leader Derek O’Brien said, “None of us have seen the motion.” He said Sen faced hooliganism in the House after it was adjourned Thursday.
Naidu responded saying it was not brought to his notice. “What is happening in the House in the presence of the Chair, that is taken note by me. Subsequently, what happened; this has not been brought to our notice except in the newspapers.”
Amid the protests, Naidu adjourned the House. Sen, however, did not leave the Chamber despite repeated directions by the Chair when the House reassembled, and the standoff led to multiple adjournments.
Interestingly, Sen’s photograph was circulated to all entry gates of the House, with directions to the marshals that he should not be allowed inside. Sources in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat cited convention to argue that no business can be transacted till the suspended member is removed from the House.
“Thanks to @narendramodi & @BJP4India Govt again for suspending me from #Parliament in the most unparliamentary way. But be sure that the voice of protest @MamataOfficial ji & @AITCofficial can’t be stopped. #BharatiyaJasoosParty Minister @HardeepSPuri might be rewarded for hooliganism,” Sen tweeted later.
Earlier, Naidu said he had made it clear at the business advisory council meeting on Thursday that members can seek clarifications from the Government after the IT minister’s statement on the Pegasus issue.
This “enabled them to address their concerns in the matter. But unfortunately, the proceedings of the House hit a new low with the papers being snatched from the Minister and torn into pieces and thrown into the air. Such actions are a clear assault on our parliamentary democracy. They do not cover the world’s largest democracy with glory. Should the members of Parliament be a party to degrading the country’s standing on the world stage?” he said.
“As the Chairman of this august House, I am deeply distressed by the course of events in the House. I expect many of you to be equally anguished. If so, we shall find a way out of the present state of affairs,” he said.
“I have stressed on the eve of the session that Parliament is much more than a political institution given its Constitutional mandate. But there seems to be scant respect for the Constitution and the sanctity of Parliament,” Naidu said.
A doctor by profession, the 48-year-old Sen is a first-time MP to the Rajya Sabha. A former Kolkata Municipal Corporation councillor, he lost the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections from Kandi constituency in Murshidabad district but was sent to the Upper House by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to whom he is said to be close. Those who know him were perhaps surprised at his role in the Parliament drama as Sen is known to keep a low profile.
Last year, after the Covid-19 pandemic began, Sen was among those who monitored the Mamata Banerjee government’s efforts to fight the virus. Earlier, in July 2019, he was accused of taking illegal commission, and had responded with a Rs 10 crore civil defamation suit and a criminal defamation case over the “false allegations”.
With ENS, Kolkata
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