With the Budget Session in limbo, Opposition MPs held posters and banners on the first floor of Parliament House Tuesday to highlight their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe allegations against the Adani Group.
MPs from 17 Opposition parties, including the Congress, DMK, BRS, AAP and the Left, staged the “novel” protest in front of the SBI office, facing the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with placards that carried slogans linking Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Adani Group chief Gautam Adani.
They also hung a big black banner that read: “We want JPC.” The TMC, however, was not part of the protest.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla asking for an opportunity to respond to “scurrilous and defamatory claims” made by the BJP against him even as the main Opposition party alleged that the Treasury benches have been disrupting Parliamentary proceedings in a planned manner.
The Parliament has not functioned ever since it met for the second leg of the Budget Session on March 13. The proceedings of both Houses have been marred by disruptions, with BJP MPs demanding Gandhi’s apology for his remarks made during a recent trip to the UK and the Opposition seeking a JPC on the Adani issue.
On Tuesday, too, both houses were adjourned after a few minutes of sloganeering. The Government, however, managed to push through the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill, 2023, amidst pandemonium in the Lok Sabha.
Sources in the Congress said the Opposition will continue to devise “novel ways to protest” in Parliament for a JPC on issues raised by the Hindenburg report on Adani companies.
The Opposition leaders decided to press for a JPC probe during a meeting held earlier in the Parliament complex. Apart from the Congress, leaders from DMK, RJD, CPI(M), CPI, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), JD(U), JMM, IUML, AAP and MDMK, attended the meeting that was held in the chamber of Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge.
TMC MPs held a separate protest in the complex and demanded that Modi break his silence on the Adani issue. “Adani should be arrested. Modi is trying to protect Adani in the Rs 1 lakh crore scam. This is also the reason why they are not allowing any discussion in Parliament. The TMC leadership has already demanded that the 10 non-BJP states should begin their own probe into this and ensure that public money is not misused,” said TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien.
When asked when the TMC-ruled West Bengal government would set up such a probe, O’Brien said it was a decision to be made by the state government.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the Speaker on March 18, Rahul Gandhi said he had written to him the previous day as well asking for permission to “respond to totally baseless and unfair charges hurled at me by senior Ministers in the Lok Sabha”.
“I am making such a request again. I am seeking the permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the Constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha,” he wrote. The rule states that a member can make a personal explanation with the Speaker’s permission.
“Members of the ruling regime have made scurrilous and defamatory claims against me both within and outside Parliament. As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for personal explanations,” he wrote.
He also included an example of the then Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad invoking the rule to give an explanation regarding comments made about him by Jyotiraditya Scindia in Parliament in 2015. Scindia, who is now a BJP MP and Minister, was then a Congress MP. Gandhi said there were several examples in the Lok Sabha digital library that showed that the right to reply was not restricted to responding to statements made in Parliament.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil said the ruling party was demanding an apology from Gandhi “only to divert attention from the Adani issue”. “The ruling party is responsible for the House not functioning… For the first time in our country’s history, the party in power is not letting Parliament function and disrupting the House,” Gohil said.