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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Congress a house divided, MPs split over attending Speaker’s address

At a meeting of Congress MPs, the party’s leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that they should not stay away from the valediction.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | September 24, 2020 1:16:42 am
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

The Congress boycotted the last day of Lok Sabha’s truncated Monsoon session to protest the suspension of Opposition MPs including three of its own in Rajya Sabha, but differences emerged within the party’s leadership in the Lower House on whether to stay away during the Speaker’s valedictory address on Wednesday.

The lack of coordination between the leadership of the Congress in the two Houses too, was in evidence during the day. Sources said the Lok Sabha leadership of the party was “completely unaware” of a protest that the Rajya Sabha Opposition held on the premises of Parliament House in the morning. A similar protest was organised by the Congress and other Opposition parties in the evening, but many Opposition MPs were missing.

At a meeting of Congress MPs, the party’s leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that they should not stay away from the valediction. As is customary, the Speaker delivers his valedictory address at the end of the session, after which the national song is played before the House is adjourned sine die.

Chowdhury is learnt to have been supported by Chief Whip Kodikunnil Suresh, but deputy leader in the House Gaurav Gogoi and some MPs such as Shashi Tharoor argued that their boycott of Parliament should be complete. Most MPs from Kerala argued in favour of a total boycott, sources said.

The sources said that Chowdhury argued that the Congress’s opposition was not to Parliament as an institution. He said that party MPs should be present during the national song so that a wrong message is not conveyed. He told MPs that the valediction was not government business — it was part of the “tradition, customs and practice” of Parliament.

Those opposed to Chowdhury, however, argued that participating in the valediction would amount to taking part in the proceedings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in Lok Sabha during the valediction. He also attended the valediction in Rajya Sabha earlier in the day.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi last month set up a group each for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to facilitate and ensure the effective functioning of the party in the two Houses. Sonia had said that joint meetings of the groups would be convened “as and when needed”.

Sources said no coordination between the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha leaderships of the Congress was visible during the Monsoon session. No joint meetings of the groups were held, and on the last day, Congress MPs of the two Houses protested separately against the government.

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