Around 1.40 pm, an hour into the debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), Union Home Minister Amit Shah walked out of the House. The benches on both sides of the aisle had thinned by then since there was no lunch break. Former PM Manmohan Singh, who was seated since noon when the debate started, had walked out minutes before.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi not present throughout the debate, Shah was the face of the CAB in parliament.
But the discussion in Rajya Sabha was not as belligerent as it had been in Lok Sabha.
For the most part, members of the treasury and opposition benches refrained from heckling or interjecting each other. It was mostly during the response by the Home Minister that Opposition MPs stood up in protest.
Shah said it is probably a “coincidence” that statements made by Congress and the ones that come from Pakistan, including by its Prime Minister Imran Khan, “ghul-mil jaate hain”. Several Congress members objected, but Shah continued.
The Home Minister also had a heated argument with TMC members when he referred to a speech which he said TMC chief Mamata Banerjee made in Lok Sabha in 2005. TMC MPs claimed that Shah was “misleading” the House. Shah denied the allegation and moved on.
Two hours after the discussion started, the House strength was down to just 60 members as most had gone out for lunch. Slowly, however, the leaders started returning.
Congress leader P Chidambaram could be seen consulting deputy leader of the party in the House Anand Sharma first, and then party colleague Kapil Sibal.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut went beyond the time allotted to him and before he could state whether the party was supporting the Bill or not, his mic was switched off. He was later seen walking towards the treasury benches, shaking hands with BJP working president J P Nadda. Sena’s members were absent when the voting took place.
Towards the end of the voting process, TMC’s leader in the House Derek O’Brien told Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu that he won’t move an amendment he proposed if the Chair allowed him to just say one sentence. On getting the opportunity, O’Brien looked at the treasury benches and said, “It is very apparent today where the majority is.” Then he turned to the Opposition benches and stated, “It is very apparent where the morality is.”