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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Rajnath appeal gives ‘honourable exit’ for divided Oppn to resume LS debate

The Opposition has disrupted the proceedings since Tuesday demanding a separate time slot for discussing the farmers' issue.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: February 9, 2021 2:38:13 am
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

An appeal from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh not to break traditions ended the logjam in the Lok Sabha, but not before exposing the differences within the Congress and among the Opposition parties over their conduct in the Lower House.

“Our democracy is lively and healthy, and everyone irrespective of party differences wants to keep it the same. We should not humiliate our institutions. It’s our responsibility to keep dignity of every institution. I appeal to everyone to hold discussions on Presidential address and not let traditions break down,” he urged as the House met after Question Hour was disrupted and adjourned. Singh said the members could talk about the farm laws during the discussion.

The Opposition has disrupted the proceedings since Tuesday demanding a separate time slot for discussing the farmers’ issue. “Our demand has been to discuss the issue of farmers who have been sitting in the cold on borders of Delhi in protest against farm laws. It is regrettable that they are being stopped from entering the capital by sharp nails and barbed wires,” Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

Interestingly, Singh did not give any assurance on a debate on the farmers issue. After disrupting the proceedings, leading to repeated adjournments for four days, the Opposition managed to get no assurance from the government on a debate. Sources said that the government has told the Opposition leaders that it could consider a debate after the passage of the Budget and completing the government business scheduled already. “Most probably, it will take place only in the second part of the session, which is beginning on March 8,” said a Congress leader.

Congress leaders said the Opposition decided to give in after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi reached out to them saying that the government could offer an appeal by Singh which was taken by the Opposition as a good gesture.

However, what the developments bare was the deep divide within the Congress and among the Opposition parties. While a section in the Congress, mainly the seniors, was keen on discussion, the others wanted to disrupt the proceedings to embarrass the government. In fact, senior party leaders Chowdhury and deputy leader K Suresh had agreed at the floor leaders’ meeting that the debate on presidential address could begin as the government agreed to extend its duration. Congress leaders in the Rajya Sabha had agreed to discuss and the house started functioning on Wednesday. However, the Lok Sabha MPs, including Rahul Gandhi, met on Wednesday afternoon and decided to insist on a separate slot for discussing the farm laws.

Unlike in the past, the Congress did not have a comprehensive meeting of its parliamentary party to discuss and finalise the party’s strategies before the Budget session began.

However, many senior leaders as well as smaller parties were not happy. “How can Congress party disrupt Question Hour? Even assemblies do not adjourn question hours,” said a Congress leader. Added a party MP from a smaller party. “Instead of creating pandemonium and shouting slogans – which is not even covered by media – Opposition should have discussed and exposed the government.

Even the treasury benches blamed the lack of unity among the Opposition for the stalemate that lasted four days. “We have heard Congress (O) and Congress (I) in the past. Now there are Congress (LS) and Congress (RS) and even within these, there are other divisions too,” said a BJP leader. “In order to run the House, the government offered an honourable exit for the Opposition and offered Rajnath Singhji to make an appeal,” he added.

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