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Early end to House session: Venkaiah Naidu breaks down, Birla expresses anguish

Both Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed anguish Wednesday over the washout, with Naidu briefly breaking down in the House.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 12, 2021 8:45:54 am
venkaiah naidu, parliament monsoon session, Monsoon session of parliament, lok sabha, rajya sabha, Parliament disruptions, indian express newsRajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu turned emotional on Wednesday. (ANI)

Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die Wednesday, two days before schedule, after a Monsoon Session that was continuously disrupted by Opposition protests over the Pegasus snooping row, farm laws and other issues. Both Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed anguish Wednesday over the washout, with Naidu briefly breaking down in the House.

Naidu’s outburst was directed at Tuesday’s incidents, which he called “sacrilege” and a new “low” for the country’s “temple of democracy”. During a discussion on farmers’ issues, Opposition members had climbed atop a table, and thrown an official file at the Chair. Some MPs were also seen squatting on the tables of the front-row seats, forcing multiple adjournments. As Rajya Sabha TV did not telecast the protest, several Opposition MPs recorded the events and posted them on Twitter.

Naidu said the scenes had inflicted “incalculable damage to the dignity and stature” of the House. “I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts… I spent a sleepless night… last night,” he said, his voice quivering. After a pause, he continued, “I struggle to find the reason or provocation for this august House to hit such a low yesterday.”

In separate remarks, Union minister Anurag Thakur Wednesday likened the behaviour of Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa, among the MPs who climbed atop the table in the Rajya Sabha, to the January 26 vandalism at the Red Fort. “If someone takes pride in resorting to such an act, I feel that the shameful incidents of January 26 are being repeated,” Thakur said, as reported by PTI.

The Opposition could have used Tuesday’s discussion as an opportunity to place on record their position on all issues relating to farmers, Naidu said. “I find it difficult to understand as to how the way the subject was listed in the List of Business… would have prevented any member to raise any issue concerning the farm sector including the three farm Bills… the sole intention seems to (have been) to not allow the House to function.”

The protests had erupted after Congress MP Jairam Ramesh objected to the “unilateral” conversion of his notice for calling attention motion to a short duration discussion, saying this was done without taking “the sense of the House”. He also protested against the “dilution” of his notice on the “three black farm laws” to a general discussion on “agricultural problems and solutions”.

Naidu’s remarks Wednesday provoked strong reactions from MPs, with the TMC’s Derek O’Brien noting that the two Houses had collectively passed at least 35 Bills in the Monsoon Session. The Rajya Sabha again dissolved into confusion at this time, with MPs trooping into the Well and shouting slogans.

Later in the day though, the Rajya Sabha functioned smoothly for almost six hours, during which the amendment Bill to return power to states to frame OBC lists was passed. However, at 6 pm, when the Chair tried to take up the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, the Opposition MPs again rose up in protest. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the Bill without any remarks, and it was passed in less than 20 minutes. The few who spoke asked that the Bill be referred to a select committee for further consideration. The only non-BJP ally who spoke in favour of the Bill was the BJD.

Speaker Om Birla said he was disappointed by the “poor productivity” of the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session. “I tried my best to run the House smoothly and give equal opportunity to all members but the House productivity was very poor… unlike the previous sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha,” he told reporters after the House was adjourned. “I share the people’s pain in their issues not being discussed in the House,” he said.

Birla suggested a meeting of all parties to “review the existing parliamentary rules”, and said a committee of presiding officers had been constituted and has finalised a report. “The next meeting of the presiding officers will consider its recommendations,” he said, adding that almost all the presiding officers had expressed their concern over actions like carrying of placards into the House and MPs trooping in the Well and shouting slogans.

On possible action against unruly members, Birla said there is no guarantee that such action would yield the desired result, but added that he will call a meeting of leaders from all parties to discuss “stringent action against habitual offenders”.

After the sine die adjournment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and floor leaders of other parties met the Speaker in his chamber over tea.

The Lok Sabha functioned only 21 hours 14 minutes during the Monsoon Session against the stipulated time of 96 hours. “The productivity was just 22%,” the Speaker said. However, the House passed 20 Bills and introduced 13. The Rajya Sabha functioned for 17 hours out of roughly 97 hours and passed 19 Bills.

The only debate in the Lok Sabha was over the amendment to restore states’ powers to decide their OBC lists. Other legislation were cleared without any discussion.

In contrast, the Budget Session had seen Lok Sabha productivity at 114%, as per a PTI report.

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