Disruptions continued to dog the Parliament on the fourth day of winter session, forcing Rajya Sabha to be adjourned for the day on Wednesday, Dec 20, while the Lok Sabha was adjourned temporarily and managed to conduct some business despite the ruckus.
The cause of the uproar was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks against his predecessor Manmohan Singh, accusing him of colluding with Pakistan to influence Gujarat polls. Dr Singh had made an uncharacteristically sharp rebuttal, accusing Modi of trying to win “political points” through “canards” and demanding that he apologise to the nation. Taking it up now, as expected, while the Congress is demanding an apology for the bizarre charge, the BJP government has made it clear that no apology would be tendered.
The loss of time comes when the winter session was already curtailed: it began on December 15 and will conclude on January 5 next year.
In Parliament on Wednesday, with the Question Hour on his office, PMO, the PM was present in Lok Sabha but no work could be conducted. As the Question Hour started, the Congress MPs trooped in the Well of the House, shouting “Dr sahab se maafi mango” (apologise to Dr Manmohan Singh). Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the proceedings of the House till noon.
In Rajya Sabha, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu’s repeated appeals for calm had no effect. Naidu’s statement did not help: “… Nobody is going to give apology. Nothing happened in the House. The statement was not made here.”
The Parliament has lost three days over the issue. On Tuesday, Naidu said he had met senior leaders from both sides to try and address the problem. He said he also met Dr Singh. There was an agreement that a joint committee will be formed to find a solution, according to media reports.
However, after a joint meeting between members of the government and the opposition on Tuesday, reports said an apology from Modi or his government was not likely. Reports said that the government clearly conveyed its decision during the meeting, in which Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar were present, that no apology will be issued for Modi’s accusation of treason, which he made on 11 December, without providing any evidence.
The meeting came after the Chairman of Rajya Sabha Venkaiah Naidu asked the two sides to talk and resolve the issue.
Dr Manmohan Singh was also reported to have met Naidu to express anguish over Modi’s remarks. “Dr. Manmohan Singhji met me. He has expressed his concern, his feelings. I have talked to him and also understood what he meant. I have conveyed it to the right persons also,” Naidu said.
While the government has made it clear that an apology from Modi was ruled out, it had reportedly assured that either Jaitley, who is Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, or Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar would make a statement.
However, media reports quoting sources said that during the meeting between the Opposition and the government, Jaitley made it clear that he had a transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech and he did not speak out of line. Jaitley instead went on to accuse the Congress of using abusive terms for Modi.
“I think the PM’s stature will not be diminished if he clarifies and regrets because Manmohan Singh is also a member of the House. Why should he stand on falsehood? Either he should prove there was something wrong or he should take his words back to convey his regret to Singh,” deputy leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said.
In the Lok Sabha, while turning down the opposition demand in the Question Hour for a discussion on the issue, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “The elections are over and the results are out. I cannot allow you to raise the issue here.”
The House was adjourned amid noisy scenes. The protests continued in the Well of the House even in the Zero Hour, with Congress members trying to speak even when not granted permission.
As Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi looked on, party MPs took to addressing the Speaker from the Well one by one though they could not be heard. Meanwhile, the Zero Hour proceedings continued regardless with members from ruling BJP and other parties raising various issues.
Congress leader in the House Mallikarjuna Kharge read out from a written note from his seat despite being disallowed by the Speaker. The Congress walked out shortly thereafter.
It is usually seen as the government’s responsibility to ensure smooth functioning of the House. It may allow a discussion and get an issue done with instead of letting it stall the Parliament’s work. However, the government and the opposition refuse to relent from their respective stands, costing the Parliament valuable time that could be used for debates and discussions over the business to be transacted.
The blame for disruptions always falls on the opposition parties, although during the previous, UPA government’s time, the charge was that the government was ‘shying away from a debate’.