DRAWING THE battle lines, the Opposition on Tuesday decided to boycott Rajya Sabha proceedings till the suspension of eight members is revoked. But the government insisted that the MPs — suspended for “unruly behaviour” during the passage of two key farm Bills on Sunday — should first “express regret”.
The suspension of the eight Opposition MPs — Congress’s Rajeev Satav, Syed Naseer Hussain and Ripun Bora, Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen, AAP’s Sanjay Singh and CPI(M)’s K K Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem — echoed in Lok Sabha as well, with some parties, including the Congress, TMC, DMK and TRS, boycotting the proceedings for a day.
With the Opposition deciding to boycott Rajya Sabha, the eight MPs, who held a sit-in next to the Gandhi statue at Parliament through the night, ended their dharna.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha minutes before 9.30 am, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “There is a proverb in English: the last straw which broke the camel’s back. I think, day before yesterday was the last straw which broke the camel’s back… Today, Bills are not sent to the standing and select committees… An attempt is made to pass all Bills. Why did the fight take place? It should not have happened. I don’t approve (members) breaking microphones and climbing on tables. Nobody approves it. But, as I said, it was the last straw on the camel’s back. It was building up… and when it broke, it turned into a storm,” he said.
Azad said 18 parties were against the farm Bills, but a division of votes on amendments was not allowed. “I want to quote Arun Jaitley. He said, in 2016, that the government becomes illegitimate if the Speaker refuses division of votes,” he said, adding that the Centre had even “gone to court over division”.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu intervened and said Jaitley had also spoken about “tyranny of the minority”.
When Naidu asked him to conclude, Azad said both Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, as Leaders of the Opposition, could speak whenever they wanted. “There were no time constraints on them… But I am tied to time. Hum Leader of Opposition na hone ke barabar hogaye… this is not in the interest of democracy,” he said.
Azad asked the government to bring another Bill in the House to restrain private players from purchasing foodgrain below the MSP, ensure that MSP is fixed as per C2 formula under the Swaminathan Committee, and procurement is not done below MSP. “And our colleagues who have been suspended for the rest of the session, their suspension should be revoked….Till the government does all these things, we will boycott the session,” he said, before walking out.
Most of the Opposition members walked out with him. Among those who remained in the House were the Samajwadi Party (SP), DMK, NCP and TRS – but they too walked out later.
SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav said nobody could approve what happened in the House, but asked the Chairman to reverse his decision to suspend the MPs. “Mistakes have been made. And the ruling party has conducted itself with patience. Nevertheless, in your wisdom, I request you to reverse your decision and allow the members back,’’ he said.
NCP’s Praful Patel echoed his views.
TRS MP K Keshav Rao and DMK’s Tiruchi Siva said the Deputy Chairman should have agreed to a division. “The way the Bills were passed in the last two days is unprecedented. When members ask for division, it must be allowed. This does not reflect well on us,’’ said Siva.
“The proceedings say 13 times, the Deputy Chairman said, ‘please go to your seats, I will allow division’. You can verify it on record,” Naidu responded.
“I have a long list of how people have been suspended in this House and in the other House… I give the instances where members of different parties, including the ruling party, were suspended earlier. Ruling party members were also suspended when the House had taken up a particular resolution. Secondly, there are a number of instances where the House passed Bills without division, in the din also. It is not a healthy thing, I do agree, but there are a number of instances,” Naidu said.
“To err is human. Emotions main thoda ho gaya… I am happy that at least some leaders said what happened was not good, but some leaders are justifying it. It is a different matter… I don’t want to name anybody…. In the heat (of the moment) or, sometimes, in emotion, members do something and later, realising it, they say they should not have done… But you go through today’s newspapers. The Indian Express carried an interview of all the eight members who have been suspended…. They not only justified it (their action), they asked what wrong (they did)… and some of them also confirmed that they did it… Getting on the table and dancing… tearing the papers… throwing them in the House… going to the Deputy Chairman… Some members justified all this. I cannot justify it,” said Naidu.
“If some people feel my way or the highway, that is not the way. I will not accept it,” he said.
After Naidu ended his speech, members of the DMK, SP, TRS, NCP and former Prime Minister and JD(S) member H D Deve Gowda too walked out, making the Opposition boycott complete.
“Is it not painful that in this House of Elders, which is the most respected House, we saw members going to the Deputy Chairman, almost attacking him? And is it not true that one of the marshals was physically attacked? Was he not thrown away? Is this the way to behave in the House,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
“If they express regret, the government is not bent upon keeping them away,” he said. “When they are talking about the numbers, on that day (Sunday) in particular, it was 110 in our favour and 72 in their favour, which can be proved again,” he said.
“I can very confidently say that we had the numbers and we were ready for division also. If they express regret and come here, today also, if there is a division, we are okay with that,” he said.
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