Updated: December 16, 2017 8:53:17 am
The delayed Winter Session of Parliament was off to a stormy start on Friday as Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha disrupted the House, demanding an explanation from the government about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation of Pakistan’s interference in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
The Opposition also protested against the disqualification of rebel JD(U) MPs Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar Ansari by Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
The Rajya Sabha saw repeated interruptions, slogan shouting and Congress members stormed the well of the House. Trouble broke out as soon as Naidu, after making the customary obituary references, read out the order disqualifying Yadav and Ansari.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agrawal got up to speak even as Naidu said “there cannot be any discussion on the Chairman’s ruling”. He then called Prime Minister Modi to introduce new members of his Cabinet and Council of Ministers to the House. As the Prime Minister left after introducing the ministers, Agrawal rose with a point of order. Naidu cut him short saying there was “neither point nor order in your point of order”.
Allowed to speak, Azad said he was not challenging the Chairman’s ruling but argued that it was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who left the grand alliance in the state despite coming to power seeking votes as part of the grouping. Pointing to the newly elected floor leader of the JD(U), R C P Singh, Azad said it is he who should resign from the Rajya Sabha.
“The membership of Yadav cannot be terminated. He is still part of the mahagathbandhan. Your (R C P Singh’s) membership should be terminated….The Chief Minister and all his MLAs and other people in the JD(U)…. their memberships should be terminated,” he said. With Congress MPs coming to the Well shouting slogans, the House was first adjourned till 12 pm.
When the House reassembled at noon, Azad raised the issue of the Prime Minister’s reference at an election rally in Gujarat to a so-called “secret meeting” on December 6 at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence to allege Pakistan’s hand in the Gujarat elections. The Prime Minister had said his predecessor Manmohan Singh had attended that meeting. Singh was present in the House.
Azad said the Opposition has given a notice under Rule 267 for suspension of all business. As he started speaking, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anant Kumar said there cannot be a discussion on the issue. Naidu said he has called the Leader of the Opposition to speak for a minute. “The Chairman has given me the permission. It is none of the business of members,” Azad told Kumar.
“A serious allegation has been made against a former Prime Minister and a former Vice-President. The allegation is also against former high commissioners, a foreign secretary that they had entered into a conspiracy with Pakistan in the Gujarat elections…. The allegation was levelled by the PM himself…. It is not an ordinary allegation,” Azad argued even as Naidu said the 267 notice has not been admitted and adjourned the House till 2.30 pm.
Talking to reporters later, Azad said the Prime Minister should come to the House and give proof to his back his allegation of conspiracy. “If the allegations are found to be true, then there should be punishment… but if they are found to be false, made only to polarise and make electoral gains in Gujarat, then the PM should apologise to the country.”
Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha was adjourned after MPs paid tribute to three sitting and seven former members who died during the inter-session period. The House would meet next on Monday.
The proceedings began with the swearing-in of newly elected Congress member from Gurdaspur, Sunil Kumar Jakhar, the son of former Speaker Balram Jakhar.
Prime Minister Modi greeted Jakhar after the oath and shook hands with him.
Thereafter, Modi introduced the new ministers to the House. They included Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal Nirmala Sitharaman (all of Cabinet rank), Raj Kumar Singh, Hardeep Puri and KJ Alphons (all Ministers of State with independent charge), Shiv Pratap Shukla, Virendra Kumar, Ananth Hegde, Gajendra Shekhawat and Satyapal Singh (all Ministers of State).
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan introduced the first woman Secretary-General, Snehlata Shrivastava, to the House.
The Speaker made obituary references to Sultan Ahmed (TMC), Chand Nath (BJP) and Tasleem-ud-Din (RJD) and seven former members — Vikram Mahajan, Ram Singh, R Keishing, P C Barman, Dhanraj Singh, Amal Datta and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.
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