With no major Bills except Finance Bill on the cards, the ruling party does not seem to be in any mood to scale down its offensive against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for the remarks during his recent visit to the UK that Indian democracy is “in danger” under the present dispensation.
BJP members repeated their demand for an apology from Rahul for his comments, accusing him of insulting India on foreign soil.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal, who was present in Lok Sabha on Wednesday morning, even asked Speaker Om Birla to “fix the responsibility” of Rahul’s “insult to Parliament” on other Congress MPs who were protesting, seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into allegations of stock manipulation, among others, raised in the Hindenburg report on the Adani Group, allegations that the Group has dismissed as baseless.
Sources in BJP said the party wants to keep the heat on Rahul and the Congress even at the cost of Parliament proceedings getting adjourned without transacting any legislative business. “The government has the Finance Bill to be passed, which will happen anyway. There are no key Bills on the agenda. Anyway, almost everyone — in the ruling party and the Opposition — is in election mood,” a party leader said, referring to the coming Karnataka Assembly elections.
Besides the Finance Bill, 35 Bills are pending — 26 of them in Rajya Sabha and nine in Lok Sabha. “But none of them is in the urgent category,” the BJP leader said.
As of now, sources said, Personal Data Protection Bill, the most awaited Bill, was unlikely to come up in this Session. But, according to them, the government wants to take up the Bill if Parliament gets back to normalcy. The Bill is at present with the legal department for vetting and has to be cleared by the Cabinet.
On Wednesday, the BJP stepped up its attack on Rahul outside Parliament, too, with Union minister Smriti Irani addressing a press conference and alleging that the Congress MP’s grudge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken the shape of a grudge against India. Referring to Rahul’s remarks in the UK, Irani alleged that he lamented the “lack of foreign intervention” in India’s democracy “at the feet of India’s colonial past”.
Irani said the “lies that became a foundation of the Congress leader’s conversation in England” are many.
The poll mood was evident in the House as soon as the Budget Session resumed on Monday after a break. The ruling party’s MPs were on their feet with the slogan “Rahul Gandhi maafi mango (Rahul Gandhi, apologise)” right from the first day, while Opposition MPs protested, seeking a JPC probe into the alleged stock manipulation by the Adani Group. While Congress, DMK, NCP, Left and BRS members were in the Well of the House, their Trinamool Congress (TMC) counterparts protested standing near their seats.
On Wednesday, as soon as the Lok Sabha assembled, Opposition members stormed into the Well, carrying placards that stated “Save SBI, Save LIC” and shouting slogans, asking the Prime Minister to answer. Counter-slogans were raised from the Treasury Benches, demanding an apology from Gandhi for his remarks on Indian democracy.
As Congress MPs entered the Well, Goyal was heard saying, “This is a serious issue. There has to be strict action on these members (protesting with placards). One member goes abroad and insults Indian Parliament. Until he apologises, the responsibility should be fixed on them (protesting Congress MPs). I wonder if they do not feel insulted by the remarks he (Rahul) made.”
He also said, “Whoever brings placards to the House should be suspended from the House.”
Speaker Om Birla warned Congress MPs against bringing placards to the House. “Please try not to make comments on the House outside this House,” he said. Birla also told the protesting Opposition members, “This House is meant for holding discussions and dialogues. Let’s talk about policy and have a good discussion on issues related to public welfare. If we want people’s welfare and consider this House a temple of democracy, I will request that at least don’t comment on this House (outside).”
As members refused to relent, Birla adjourned the House until 2 pm. When the House resumed, sloganeering continued from both sides, even as Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was in the Chair, kept requesting for order.
Amid the din, MoS (Defence) Ajay Bhatt introduced the Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023. The Bill is aimed at empowering the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command of Inter-services Organisations in respect of service personnel who are subject to the Air Force Act, 1950; the Army Act, 1950; and the Navy Act, 1957, who are serving under or attached to his command, for maintenance of discipline and proper discharge of their duties.
In the afternoon, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi kept up the attack on Gandhi, saying, “We are receiving information and calls from the diaspora across the globe that a member of this House is insulting India…he has cast aspersions on the Speaker… Directly, this is an allegation on the Speaker and the institution (Parliament).”
He also said, “Rahul Gandhi has said that MPs who stand outside Parliament have also been arrested. Where have they been arrested? Saying things like this and inviting other countries to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country is ghor apmaan (gross insult) of India.”
But instead of seeking an apology for this “gross insult”, Opposition members are bringing placards into the House, he said. “Therefore, action should be taken. This is our demand,” Joshi said. Mahtab subsequently adjourned Lok Sabha for the day.