It's been 13 days that the Winter Session commenced, but no work has taken place as MPs continue to spar over the note ban.
Opposition uproar over the demonetisation issue continued in Rajya Sabha on Thursday leading to two adjournments in the post-noon session even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained present in the House.
As Chairman Hamid Ansari called for the first question of the day at noon, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said while the prime minister has been addressing his party MPs in Parliament House and even speaking outside, the opposition parties have been demanding his presence during the debate on demonetisation issue.
“We had been demanding for last 15 days (presence of PM)...We are against black money. We want to speak on this issue but with whom? Our anguish is that the prime minister is holding weekly meetings with his MPs in Parliament House. He is also speaking outside. Our demand is that the prime minister should be here and listen to us,” Azad said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained seated in the Rajya Sabha even during an adjournment of 15 minutes as members from various political parties were seen going to his seat to exchange pleasantries.
Cinestar-turned politician Jaya Bachchan of the Samajwadi Party went to the PM and was seen exchanging pleasantries. She was followed by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members and a Left MP.
Renowned boxer and member Mary Kom was also seen discussing certain things with Modi.
When the senior Congress leader also alleged that the PM has remarked that the Opposition parties support black money holders and said it was a “big allegation”, Bharatiya Janata Party members protested the remark.
Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the House should continue with the debate on demonetisation, which started on November 16, the first day of the Winter session.
Ansari also said that the debate has not been concluded and called the listed speaker A U Singh Deo of the Biju Janata Dal to start.
Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav said he too agreed that the debate should continue, but it “cannot be one-way traffic” and demanded that the prime minister should remain seated in the House all through the discussion.
“Why are you assuming that he (PM) will not participate,” Ansari asked the opposition member.
As Singh Deo rose to put forth his points on demonetisation, Congress members started raising slogans like “Pradhan Mantri maafi maango (PM should apologise)” from the aisles.
Naidu said the prime minister is here and the unfinished debate should be resumed. However amid din, the House was adjourned for 15 minutes.
When it reassembled at 12.29, Congress members were again on their feet raising slogans as BJD member started the debate.
Amid noisy scenes, Deo said, “We support any move taken by the government of India for corruption and black money.”
But as the sloganeering continued, Ansari adjourned the House for the day.
The government and the opposition, yet again failed to break the deadlock over discussion on the demonetisation issue under provisions that entail voting and the noisy scenes prompted the Speaker to adjourn the House for the day.
As the House assembled at noon after a brief adjournment, the Opposition demanded discussion on the issue of demonetisation.
Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, said the Opposition wants to hold discussion on the issue. “You should give consent for discussion under Rule 56. This is a big issue, scam and scandal. Government employees, poor people are not getting salaries. We want to put forth the problems faced by them. But you want to run away from discussion.
“People are being murdered in instalments. Every day there is a new firman (order), the country is facing trouble, but the government is at ease,” Kharge said.
Mahajan took an objection to the word ‘scandal’ used by Kharge. “This is not a scandal. I am ready for discussion. Even yesterday, I said I can relax all rules for discussion on the issue as this is under my jurisdiction. Let’s start the discussion,” she said.
However, the Opposition, joined by the JD(U), Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Trinamool Congress jumped into the Well, demanding discussion under provisions that entail voting.
Hitting out at the Opposition, particularly the Congress, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, “We are ready for discussion, but the Congress is not. You (Mahajan) said we can discuss everything, from zero to universe, but Congress only wants to go from zero to zero.
“They should not dare to stop the fight against black money as the whole country is with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
As the deadlock continued, Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Jithender Reddy sought an intervention from seniors like BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab.
Mahtab said Parliament functions on rules and conventions and not as per the “whims and caprice”. “I request the government to take initiative and talk to respective political parties and start the discussion,” he said.
When Mahajan again said, “Let’s start the discussion,” Kharge said this was possible only under provision of voting.
Attacking the government, TMC’s Sudeep Bandopadhyay, said the black money holders are happy because the government has fixed the “50-50 ratio”, while poor are suffering. He was referring to the new amendments in IT Act passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
“Black money should be properly punished, but what is happening is that common people are suffering. We simply want discussion with voting. Why is the government not ready for discussion....,” the TMC MP said.
Opposition members, including those from Congress and TMC, stood in the Well of the House, raising their pitch against the government over the demonetisation issue.
Members from the Left parties, Samajwadi Party and All India United Democratic Front also joined them while those from the AIADMK and Nationalist Congress Party were seen standing near their seats.
Interestingly, as Opposition members raised anti-government slogans demanding voting, BJP members started shouting ‘Modi Modi’ to counter them.
Earlier when the House assembled for the day, Mahajan took up the Question Hour, but protesting Opposition members turned vociferous with their slogan shouting besides occasionally resorting to howling and clapping.
In the din, the Speaker could take up only two questions and the related supplementaries, before adjourning the House proceedings till noon.
Rahul Gandhi was present in the House during the Question Hour, and most of the time he was seen talking to Congress MPs Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shashi Tharoor and Deepender Singh Hooda.