Congress on Thursday disrupted the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha forcing two adjournments during the Question Hour over the happenings in Arunachal Pradesh where the party is accusing the governor of seeking to ‘destabilise’ its government there.
Congress members forced two adjournments during the Question Hour with its members raising slogans in the Well of the House and its leaders terming the developments in Arunachal as “alarming” for democracy and regional parties.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it has never happened in the history of India that a deputy speaker of assembly removes the Speaker and that too not in the Assembly, but from a makeshift venue.
“Can another Assembly be created... this is an alarm bell... not only for one state, but for all regional parties,” he said, adding that the assembly was being run from “someone’s drawing room”.
“This is very alarming,” Azad said, who along with some other members had given a notice on the issue.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the notices were being examined by Chairman Hamid Ansari and added that it was “not proper” to discuss the role of a Governor in the House.
“Knowingly, unknowingly you are criticising the Governor ...that is my problem. Once the motion is admitted, we can discuss,” Kurien said and asked members not to criticise the Governor till then.
Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist said the developments in Arunachal Pradesh were “anti-democratic”.
Azad said on one hand, the government was seeking Opposition cooperation in running of the House, on the other it was ‘dislodging’ an elected state government.
Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav said it was not the first time that the Arunachal Pradesh issue has been raised in the House. “This is an alarming situation. The (Centre) should have acted immediately,” he said.
Kurien said anything against the Governor would be expunged from the records.
As the House started taking up special mentions, Congress members trooped into the Well raising slogans like ‘We want justice’, and ‘Modi’s dictatorship will not be allowed’. They also shouted slogans like “Killing of democracy will not be allowed in Arunachal” and “Killing of Constitution will not be allowed in Arunachal”.
At noon, Chairman Hamid Ansari asked the slogan-shouting members to return to their seats and allow the Question Hour to go on, but the unrelenting members continued with their protest, forcing an adjournment for 30 minutes.
While a member asked a question, the reply by Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani could not be heard amid din.
When the House reassembled, Azad again rose to raise the Arunachal issue but was disallowed by Ansari who said it was the members’ right to ask questions and they should not disrupt the proceedings.
“Don’t deprive them of their right to ask questions,” he said, asking members to take to their seats.
Protesting Congress members were initially standing in the aisles raising slogans, but later entered the Well, forcing Ansari to adjourn the House till 2 pm.
When the House met at 2 pm, Congress members were again on their feet even as Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, tried to take up a calling attention motion moved by Biju Janata Dal member Dilip Kumar Tirkey on the situation arising out of submerging of many villages and displacement of tribal people in Odisha due to the construction of the Polavaram project.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi however, requested that the motion be taken up later as Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati was not available.
Kurien said that items are listed only after informing ministers, to which Naqvi said that Bharati had sent information about her unavailability.
Kurien then checked and said the information from the minister had come only after 1 pm. However, as members including Tirkey, agreed that the issue could be taken up later, the motion was postponed to next week.
The Deputy Chairman then took up discussion on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015, but the slogan-shouting by Congress members protesting on the Arunachal issue continued unabated.
“You have agreed that the Bill will be passed,” Kurien told the protestors and asked why were they not letting it be passed on Thursday.
Deputy leader of Congress Anand Sharma replied that while the party was committed to the passage of the bill, which it had repeatedly asserted, it could not happen today.
Referring to the Arunachal Pradesh issue, Sharma said his party was compelled because the Centre is “destablising an elected government in a sensitive border state.” It is an assault on the Constitution, he added.
However despite the Congress stance, Kurien proceeded with the discussion on the bill as several Congress members reached the Well of House shouting slogans like “we want justice.”
Amidst the din, AIADMK member K R Arjunan expressed his support for the legislation while proposing some changes.
Throughout, the Congress members kept shouting slogans, prompting Naqvi to remark in a lighter vein that the government had arranged some good medicines for the protesting members whose throats have gone hoarse.
As no respite from the chaos appeared imminent, Kurien adjourned the House till 3 pm.
Image: Congress members stormed the Well, chanting slogans 'we want justice'. Photograph: PTI