The government Wednesday signaled that it is ready for a discussion on the issue of price-rise next week even as 20 MPs suspended from the Upper House began a 50-hour relay dharna in front of the Gandhi statue in Parliament complex.
The Congress was not present in this meeting since its leaders and MPs were detained by police as they stepped out of Parliament building to protest the ED questioning party chief Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald case.
But the tussle over suspension of 20 Rajya Sabha MPs — 19 on Tuesday and AAP’s Sanjay Singh on Wednesday — continued, as Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the suspension will be revoked only if the MPs expressed regret, a suggestion the opposition parties rejected. The MPs thereafter began a 50-hour dharna at the Gandhi statue at 11 am. It will continue until 1 pm Friday.
Trinamool Congress leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien said the Opposition leaders made it clear in the meeting with Goyal and Joshi that the government should, in fact, express regret for not allowing a discussion on price-rise. “No question of the Opposition expressing regret for standing up for people’s issues,” he said.
Since the Rajya Sabha members have been suspended only for the remaining part of this week, sources in Opposition said the tension could ease and Parliament resume normal functioning next week if the government fixes a date for the discussion on Monday itself.
“The government has in principle agreed for a discussion next week but the suspension of MPs will not be revoked. So we will continue our protests on Thursday and Friday,” a senior Opposition leader told The Indian Express. “The House is unlikely to function this week. If the situation does not worsen in the next two days — if there are no more suspensions, and if the government fixes a date for discussion on Monday — normalcy will return next week.”
The issue of revocation of the suspension came up later at a formal meeting convened by Chairman Naidu in his chamber. Opposition leaders urged Naidu to revoke the suspension but the Chairman said “expression of regret” for their “misconduct” is a precondition.
The Opposition was represented by Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and his party colleague K C Venugopal, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), Binoy Viswam (CPI), Suresh Reddy (TRS) and Vaiko (MDMK). The government side had Goyal, Joshi and MoS, Parliamentary Affairs, V Muraleedharan.
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The meeting saw both sides sticking to their positions. While the ministers said the government had expressed its readiness in the House for a discussion once Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman returns, Opposition leaders said a discussion can be held even in her absence.
Sources said Goyal and Joshi later met some opposition leaders separately, during which the government side expressed willingness to hold a discussion next week in both Houses.
On suspension of MPs, Naidu urged the opposition parties to “understand the agony” that the Chair goes through before naming the “erring” members. He made it clear that revocation of suspension could be considered if only the “erring” members realised the “gravity” of their “misconduct” in the House and expressed regret.
Naidu also told them that 63 Lok Sabha MPs were suspended in 1989, and 25 in 2015 for persistent violation of rules of the House and indulging in disruptions.