Ahead of a four-day holiday, Rajya Sabha MPs from Opposition ranks did not indulge in their usual protest over demonetisation of high-value currencies to get the House adjourned on Friday afternoon. They simply did not turn up, even though many of them were present on Parliament premises, forcing deputy chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the Upper House until December 14 due to lack of quorum.
Only 23 MPs came to the House in the afternoon — the minimum attendance required to start the proceedings is 25, or 10 per cent of the House’s sanctioned strength of 245. Eighteen of them were from the ruling side and five from the Opposition, among them Congress’s Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, party deputy leader Anand Sharma, and Motilal Vora.
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While both government and the Opposition has been calling for a discussion on demonetisation, the debate could not have taken place on Friday afternoon, which is reserved for legislation introduced by individual members in both Houses.
Anand Sharma got up soon as the House assembled at 2.30 pm and told the Chair that there was no quorum. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the lack of quorum was due to the absence of MPs from the Opposition. Both Azad and Sharma then reminded the minister that running the House was not the responsibility of the Opposition but that of the government.
A few Opposition MPs were standing just outside the House, and some of them even peeped inside, but they did not come in.
Kurien said he would ring the quorum alarm to summon MPs present in Parliament complex. Sharma, who repeatedly demanded that the House be adjourned, also left the House, apparently to call a few colleagues. But despite the alarm ringing twice, no other MP came in. Sharma was seen chatting with another MP in the Central Hall during that time, and he, too, did not return.
Subsequently even Azad and Vora walked out of the House. That left Kurien with no option but to adjourn the House.
Claiming that the government is not interested in running Parliament, Sharma told The Indian Express, “The Opposition made its position clear in the morning itself — that unless the Prime Minister comes, we will not participate in anything…. (But) the PM is running away. He is scared of facing us after the damage he has done to the economy.”
Sharma also said, “If the government wanted the House to function, why will they disrupt Lok Sabha (today)? Who disrupted Rajya Sabha on Thursday and Wednesday?”
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “On Thursday, even the Chairman (Hamid Ansari) had to reprimand ministers, and even today it was the ruling members who disrupted…. It was only private members’ business (on Friday afternoon). There is a four-day break, and people (MPs) left in the afternoon.”
CPI’s D Raja said attendance is “usually less” on Friday afternoons, when private members bring their legislation. “If there are important bills, people would speak on it,” he said.