Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the importance of differentiating between checking and choking, several Opposition members emphasised that delaying a possibly hasty action in Lok Sabha and protests are legitimate tools available with the Opposition.
Several members quoted Gopalaswamy Ayangar from the drafting of the Constitution.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Ayangar had given three reasons for the need of a second chamber — the Rajya Sabha. Ayangar, Singh said, “expected that Rajya Sabha would hold dignified debates, delay legislation which might be the outcome of passions of the moment, and provide opportunity to seasoned people who might not be in the thickest of political fray but who might be willing to participate in debates with the amount of learning and importance which we do not ordinarily associate with the House of People.”
Arguing on similar lines, CPI(M) leader T K Rangarajan said, “Constitution-framers have said, ‘The Second Chamber is the only instrument by which we delay action which might be hastily finished in Lok Sabha…’.” He added that the government is now pushing “everything” in the guise of Money Bill.
K Keshava Rao of TRS said Modi “perhaps thought that checks should not mean blocking”, and that “checks can at best be checkmating”. He said, “Now, checkmating has also never been done…either you come from a tyranny of majoritarianism, or a tyranny of one House, or of one thinking”. Two minds, he added, are “always better than one”.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav asserted that the Upper House cannot just agree to whatever the Lok Sabha does.
Some of the common demands raised by several members were that the House should function for 100 days a year, and even smaller parties should get more time to speak. Several members also said that all states should have equal representation in the Upper House, which is also the Council of States.
Members of the treasury benches, however, disagreed with the opposition leaders. BJP’s Bhupendra Yadav countered Singh on his accusation that fewer Bills were sent to Parliamentary committees. He said the UPA government under Singh had referred only five Bills to House panels, while the Modi government has sent 17 Bills to select committees. “This is more than three times than that of the Congress government,” he said.
Congress leader Anand Sharma interjected and said that the Bills are being sent to select committees after demands from the Opposition. He said the Rajya Sabha is being called “obstructionist” but pointed out that late minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley had said that “it is an instrument available to the Opposition”.
Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said that legislative powers of the Upper House are under attack because many Bills are termed as Money Bill. “Of late, there is an increasing tendency for bringing Bills as Money Bills,” Ray said. He said Congress’s Jairam Ramesh had to “run to the apex court to challenge decisions treating certain Bills as Money Bills…. A situation has arisen where we, particularly members of Rajya Sabha, are not happy that on all occasions some Bills are treated as Money Bills.”
In his speech, Ramesh said that while the House is celebrating democracy, there is hypocrisy being practiced since the Upper House is bypassed through “abuse” of the Money Bill route.
AIADMK’s A Navaneethakrishnan said that obstruction of proceedings of the House cannot be stretched or taken to the extent of an entire session or entire day.