Amid a warm welcome, Venkaiah Naidu on Friday took over as the new Chairman of the Rajya Sabha with an emphasis that there should be no disruptions in the House and all parties should work together, without treating each other as “enemies”.
He also said that he did not approve of bills being passed in the din and underlined that it can happen when there are no disruptions.
In parliamentary democracy, the Opposition must have its say but the government must have its way, he quipped, adding after all, the government has the mandate of the people.
His remarks came after several opposition members urged him to continue the practice of not allowing any bill to be passed amid pandemonium.
There were also requests from the smaller parties that justice should be done with them in terms of giving them appropriate time to speak in the Upper House of Parliament.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said bills used to be passed in the din prior to 2014 and since the National Democratic Alliance came to power, the principle of not passing any legislation in pandemonium has been strictly adhered to.
At the same time, he said Parliament can’t be run by the “tyranny of the Well”, implying disruptions.
Felicitating Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that the new Rajya Sabha Chairman would rise to the occasion in the House and his conduct would win him accolades from all sides.
He noted that Naidu has a long experience and was well-versed with the intricacies of parliamentary procedures and the functioning of the House.
Modi said since Naidu has spent so many years in the Rajya Sabha, there might be an initial discomfort for members, similar to the one faced by lawyers when one of them becomes a judge.
After Modi, a large number of members, including Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, also welcomed Naidu.
Speaking after members made their remarks, Naidu said the House should debate, discuss and decide on issues but disruptions should be avoided.
He said members belonging to various parties were political rivals but not enemies. “We have to keep this in mind and work together,” he said, adding that all members should work to strengthen the country in line with their views and ideologies.
In a choked voice, he spoke about his humble background and death of his parents early in life “so much so that he cannot even recall the face of his mother.” He said he did not have the support of any “dynasty” and was “humbled by the honour”.
“Now I am an all-party man, above party politics,” Naidu said.
He emphasised that in the Rajya Sabha, everyone should have the opportunity to have a say on important issues, whether their party had a small number or big.
“If all follow the rules, everyone will be able get the opportunity to speak. Time management is crucial,” he said.
Quoting former President Pranab Mukherjee, Naidu said he had said the House should debate, discuss and decide and “the fourth ‘D’ -- disruption -- should be avoided.”
Known for his witty one-liners, Naidu said, “after all, the culture of India is agriculture.”
Jaitley, while responding to some Opposition members’ contention that no bill should be passed in the din, said, “Prior to 2104, there was no such principle.”
He said there were 21 bills which were passed in the din prior to 2014. The last one was the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
“We have seen days where the whole Opposition was in jail and the Constitution Amendments were passed by a depleted strength. Obviously, those are distant memories. But each one of them has taught us a lesson,” the minister said.
“Therefore, if this principle has to be adhered to, then, as was mentioned yesterday, and this is my specific suggestion, Dr Radhrakrishnan was quoted that Parliament can’t be the tyranny of the government, it also can’t be the tyranny of the Well,” he said.
He noted that “the Opposition is naturally concerned” that it must have a say.
“But, ultimately, there is a balancing act that has to be performed and the balancing act is that matters of public interest which the Opposition wants to raise or some other members want to raise must be given adequate time. At the same time, there is government business.
“The country depends on policy which is framed or the legislations which are framed which come up for discussion and therefore there must be an adequate balance struck between the two,” Jaitley said, expressing confidence that Naidu would be able to strike a balance, given wisdom and experience.
Felicitating Naidu, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that after attaining the position of the Rajya Sabha Chairman, he has become “independent and not a party person.”
For Naidu, his religion or party should now remain only in his mind and not in his conduct, the senior Congress leader said.
He reminded him of the “scale of balance” carved in the seat of the Rajya Sabha Chairman, that calls for the post to do justice to all. Also, the practice has been to accommodate and allow everyone to speak, Azad said.
“There is a tradition of this House that no bill is passed in din. That practice should be continued,” he said.
Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party also talked about the practice of not passing any bill in the din.
He, however, added that the responsibility for smooth conduct of the House is not just of the Chair but also of those creating such ruckus as they should realise on what issues they should create pandemonium and on what not.
He hoped the smallest parties will be allowed a say.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien expressed confidence that Naidu “will not commit a sin to pass any bill in the din.”
He hoped that Naidu would maintain his “sense of humour and yet remain firm... May the Chair always listen to voice of opposition.”
O’Brien also urged Naidu to continue his practice of using acronyms. The TMC leader made an acronym of Naidu as ‘Now All India’s Dearest Umpire’.
A Navaneethakrishnan of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam said the Chairman can connect with every region of the country and every member of the House effectively. He expressed confidence that each member would get an opportunity in the House to speak.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury, in his last remarks as member of the House as he is retiring, expected Naidu’s innings in the Upper House to be “very illustrious”.
He was confident that Naidu will uphold the Constitution and do justice while presiding over the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha.
Yechury said Naidu, whom he has known for last 40 years, is now holding an important position and is custodian of our Constitution.
“If Parliament does not function and discharge its responsibilities, the people’s sovereignty dissolves. This is not permissible,” he said, and hoped that Naidu would run the House with justice and dignity.
S C Mishra of the Bahujan Samaj Party said he has been a great admirer of Naidu and hoped that all members would get an opportunity to speak in the House.
He charged that his party leader Mayawati was not allowed to speak in the House on July 18 and hoped that such a thing would not happen again.
D Raja of the CPI hoped that Naidu will underline the importance of multi-party democracy.
“You must give space to all dissenting voices.. Divergent views must be appreciated and you can be assured of our cooperation, but Constitutional values and constitutional morality must be upheld,” he said.
Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party said that Naidu occupying the second highest Constitutional post reflects the strength of Indian democracy and is a great example for the coming generations.
The NCP leader said the quality of debate in the House has deteriorated. He also spoke about very less time given to the smaller parties.
Balwinder Singh Bhundar of the Shiromani Akali Dal lamented that members did not get time to speak in the House and Naidu should give more time to smaller parties to speak.
At this, Naidu said he did not believe that any party can be small, but members can be so.
Keshav Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi lauded Naidu for his oratory skills to bring more humour and wit in the House which had turned dry for many years now.
“I hope that you would use this kind of wit because this House has sometimes been too dry and it looked like we are fighting each other,” he said.
He expressed confidence that Naidu would not only do justice in the House but also do a lot for the country as Vice President.
Tiruchi Siva of the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham hoped Naidu’s outlook towards the members of the House would be unbiased and both the opposition and treasury benches would be equal for him.
Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena said Naidu has been a revolutionary who took part in the “second freedom struggle”, inferring to the Emergency period.
He said Naidu had gone to jail during the Emergency when he joined the movement by Jayprakash Narayan and knows what struggle means.
He said Naidu, who joined politics as a student leader and then went up to head the BJP’s students wing, has on Friday come a full circle when he has come to “head a class with the members like me as students.”
“But I want to assure you that these students are good and will not trouble you and will not let your blood pressure increase,” he said.
Photographs: PTI Photos