The government’s decision to extend the Lok Sabha session till May 13 attracted flak from the Opposition, with the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Left parties insisting they should have been consulted. Their complaint: they learnt of the move from the television.
Though these parties had a common position, there were no takers for Congress’s suggestion for a boycott of the extended period. Sources disclosed that Congress chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia had contacted leaders of other parties with the boycott proposal, but they refused to come along.
The Opposition raked up the matter as soon as the House met Friday morning. Congress and Trinamool members repeatedly came into the Well and shouted slogans like “tanashahi nahin chalegi” (authoritarianism will not be tolerated) and “Modi sarkar jawab do” (Modi government explain).
A group of BJP members countered this at one stage by chanting “Rahul Gandhi mafi mango”, alluding to the government response to the Amethi food-park controversy, ignited by the Congress vice-president.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan informed the House during zero hour that the session had been extended till May 13 after the Business Advisory Committee approved the decision taken by the government Thursday evening. However, she announced that there would be neither a question hour, nor zero hour, over the next three working days.
Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge said: “It’s a unilateral decision… The House was not taken into confidence, nor was the opposition… This is dictatorship.” He added, “You (Speaker) don’t know (of the extension), we don’t know, but the press knows it.”
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu defended the decision and maintained that there were numerous precedents (at least 16 since 1952).
However, he courted controversy when he happened to refer to Kharge as a “good boy”. As Congress members sprang on to their feet in protest, Naidu tried to wriggle out by describing Kharge as a “good man, very good man, very good elderly man”, drawing smiles from both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.