AMID THE continuing impasse in Parliament over demonetisation, BJP leader L K Advani on Wednesday expressed his displeasure with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar for not “running the House”. “Who’s running the House? It is running on its own. Neither the Speaker nor the Parliamentary Affairs Minister is running the House,” said Advani, after the Lok Sabha was adjourned ahead of the lunch recess, about 40 minutes after it met a second time in the morning. When a Lok Sabha official told him, in reply to his question, that the House had been adjourned till 2 pm, Advani retorted, “Why not sine die?”
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Following Advani’s outburst, sources said, the treasury benches seemed to be reconsidering their position on not allowing a debate with voting. According to these sources, the Speaker held discussions with Opposition leaders and the government to persuade both sides to agree on a debate. They said the Lok Sabha was likely to begin a debate on Thursday.
In the Lok Sabha, the dispute is about under which rule the discussion should be held. While the government has been unwilling to agree to a debate with voting, the Opposition has been insisting on a vote. In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition has been demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be present for the discussion.
Sources in the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry said the ministers were in touch with Opposition leaders during the day.
Earlier in the House, Ananth Kumar tried to pacify Advani and was seen pointing to the Press Gallery, cautioning him about the media hearing his remarks. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S S Ahluwalia also walked up to Advani, and was seen whispering to him.
But Advani continued to speak. “I am going to tell the Speaker that she is not running the House… I am going to say it publicly. Both sides are a party to this,” he said.
He then left the Lok Sabha, accompanied by Ananth Kumar and Ahluwalia. The two ministers and senior party MP Ganesh Singh accompanied Advani to his vehicle.
An MP who was present in the lobby at 11:45 am recalled how BJP chief whip Rakesh Singh and Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal tried to pacify Advani, who was visibly “agitated” and was heard saying “this cannot be like this”.
Sources said Advani, who is also Chairman of the Committee on Ethics, was upset over the continuing disruptions in the Lok Sabha. At least three BJP MPs said Advani was angry with the government and the Speaker. A senior BJP MP said Advani expressed disappointment and anger at the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry. “He was blaming the government,” said the MP.
Sources said Advani even told Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who was seated near him in the Lok Sabha, that the MPs should not get their salaries as they were not working. “He is a senior parliamentarian. It’s the anguish of a senior parliamentarian and a politician that has got reflected inside the House,” said Naidu.
“It is naturally painful for a veteran parliamentarian to see such unruly conduct of members in the House,” said sources.
“Members belonging to Opposition parties are being allowed to park themselves in front of the treasury benches and shout slogans,” said a source.
Ananth Kumar claimed Advani was “upset with the Opposition”. He said the former deputy prime minister was angry at “a handful of people holding the House proceedings to ransom.”
Later in the day, the BJP parliamentary party passed a resolution criticising both the Congress and Trinamool Congress for the disruptions, and blamed the Opposition for not allowing Parliament to function.