It is normally a slogan associated with political rallies but it resounded in Parliament Thursday. the BJP’s poll slogan “Gujarat ka sher aya,” BJP members announced as Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered Rajya Sabha.
Rivalries of the recent assembly elections spilled into Rajya Sabha with sloganeering accompanying Modi’s routine question hour entry, and a zero hour speech on farmers’ woes snowballing into an argument whether MPs are entitled to criticise the government.
The chants of “Dekho dekho kaun aya, Gujarat ka sher aya” from the treasury benches were a signal to many that Modi had walked in around 12.05 pm. Questions directed at the PMO are taken up Thursdays in any case; the celebratory mood was explained by the fact that Modi is being credited with having just ensured there are BJP governments in four of the five states that went to polls over the last two months.
Retaliatory cries of “Punjab” from the opposition benches were led by the voice of Viplove Thakur but an admonition from chairman Hamid Ansari nipped any possible exchange in the bud.
Modi left 15 minutes later after exchanging a few words with Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu and glancing through a document that Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had given to him.
Naidu had his own battle to fight when Opposition leaders objected to his contention that the Opposition could not use zero hour as an excuse to criticise the government. Deputy chairman P J Kurien’s words — “I have given the floor to you, please do not get angry” — failed to pacify the minister. Naidu was responding to a zero hour mention from the JD(U)’S Sharad Yadav on the need to ensure farmers do not suffer as a result of the bumper crop this year, which brought many others including Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP and Sitaram Yechury of the CPM on their feet.
As neither side looked in the mood to back off, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that when an issue is raised, it is either the concerned minister who replies or, in his absence, it is the minister for parliamentary affairs who responds and Naidu is neither.
“When MPs raise certain important matters it is natural that other MPs may stand up to react. It is parliamentary practice. On the other hand, minister always has right and occasion to reply, so when minister stands up it is the duty of the members to listen to the minister instead of making noise,” Kurien said. Soon after, SP MP Naresh Aggarwal started his zero hour speech by echoing UP’s outgoing CM: “You managed to mislead the people during the elections.”
The remark was not challenged by the treasury benches.