The deadlock in Parliament over Union Minister Niranjan Jyoti’s ramzaadon vs haramzaadon remark continued today with the government rejecting an Opposition proposal to bring a general “motion of censure” in the Rajya Sabha condemning “inflammatory speeches.”
In the Rajya Sabha, the nine opposition parties — Congress, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal(U), BSP, CPI(M), DMK, CPI and NCP commanding a strength of 139 in the 250-member House — issued a joint statement calling upon the Government to reconsider their proposal for a parliamentary resolution.
This came even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this time in Lok Sabha, reaffirmed his disapproval of Jyoti’s remarks.
Th Opposition gave the government time until Monday to reconsider. If that does not happen, the Opposition is considering two options: continue stalling the House or allow only Zero Hour and Question Hour and, in the process, disrupt the government’s ambitious legislative agenda.
Said Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien: “The government has rejected the resolution proposal even after we climbed down from our original demand of resignation. We heard the Prime Minister and because he came we re-calibrated our stand. Now we have given the government time till Monday to reconsider their stand. If the government wants the House to run, they should take a call.”
“Though we were deeply disappointed by the Prime Minister’s statement, we took a collective and considered view to not insist on the demand for sacking of the minister. We instead proposed as a way out… that a general resolution critical and disapproving of any inflammatory statements which form divisions in the society be adopted. It would also state that no such statements should be made by Members of Parliament, especially ministers,” Congress Deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told The Indian Express.
“We cannot accept this,” said a senior NDA Minister who did not wish to be named. “The Prime Minister’s comments must get the primacy they deserve so that once he has taken a position against remarks made by a junior minister, the Opposition must treat it as final. Also, a Parliamentary resolution has a certain context. Even if Sadhvi’s name is not mentioned, it will be alluded to her. We are not going to accept her censure after she has tendered an apology and the Prime Minister has made a statement in both Houses…They should, instead accept the Prime Minister’s speech as the sense of the House and endorse it unanimously,” he added.
Another minister added that the Government would not agree to anything that would “demean the Prime Minister.”
This opens a window for a possible compromise. CPM floor leader in the Rajya Sabha Sitaram Yechury also suggested that the statement made by the Prime Minister in the House — without changing a word — can be converted into a motion and the House can decide whether it agrees to it or not.
He said, “It is up to the Government to resolve the impasse now…It should keep in mind that the nine parties are in a majority in the House”.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu dismissed the Opposition’s demand with his own question. “Would it (the resolution) be about all those who have spoken (out of turn) since 1952?”, he asked.
Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sought to know what “Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav have to to say about Mamata Banerjee using abusive language about BJP president Amit Shah?”
“And have Sonia and Rahul Gandhi forgotten what all they had called our leader — maut ka saudagar, virus, maneater, butcher?”
Another minister contended that the Government met the three demands made initially by the Opposition: made the minister offer an apology; senior people in the Government like Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and his deputy Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi criticised the remarks and got the PM to make a statement of regret in both Houses.
“(And yet) They keep changing their stand,” said Naidu, “tomorrow, they will demand some other resignation.”
A section of the \BJP leadership feels that the Opposition will climb down by early next week and banks on perceived cracks in its ranks. Though Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma told The Indian Express that the Government was “in a dream world if it thinks the opposition will get divided or scale down its demand,” a senior minister maintained that cracks were visible.
He claimed that the SP, BSP, DMK and the JD(U) were already drifting away from the Congress. As far as the Left is concerned, even though the BJP was on the defensive over the Sadhvi, the issue had taken attention away from Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vis-a-vis the Saradha scam. This did not suit the Left.
The minister, going further, said even Congress leaders were divided as could be seen the way the two Houses were functioning. While the Rajya Sabha was paralysed, the Lok Sabha was witnessing only disruptions, with business being disposed of as usual.
In any case, both sides got a breather because of the weekend.
“A week-end is too long a time in politics,” said a senior minister indicating that equations could change during the next week.
The opposition leaders said they wanted the House to function and transact business and pointed out that five pieces of legislation were considered and adopted by the House in two days. “This has no precedence in recent memory,” they said. “Despite the reasonability and cooperation extended by the entire opposition in Rajya Sabha, the government continued to remain obdurate and highly unreasonable. This unfortunately leaves us with no option but to continue with our protest demanding that such remarks aimed at sharpening communal polarization in the country for narrow partisan, political and electoral gains is not acceptable.” — with Pradeep Kaushal