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Rajya Sabha stand-off may endanger key Bills

December 04, 2014 09:14 IST
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Government floor managers are busy talking to Opposition members to resolve the stand-off over Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's remarks, in the Rajya Sabha.

Key Bills, including the insurance and coal blocks amendment Bills, might not be passed during the ongoing winter session of Parliament if the stand-off between the government and Opposition continues in Rajya Sabha.

The Insurance Amendment Bill, which aims to increase the foreign investment in the sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, is currently with a Rajya Sabha select committee, which is to submit its report by December 12.

The coal blocks amendment Bill, which will replace a Presidential ordinance, was passed by the Cabinet on Tuesday and needs Parliamentary approval.

However, the government could face problems in ensuring their passage in the Upper House, with Rajya Sabha proceedings getting disrupted for a second day in succession on Wednesday over the Opposition’s demand that Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti should resign for her use of swear words for the Opposition at a public rally in West Delhi on Monday.

The government put up a brave front on Wednesday, dismissing the Opposition demands. However, concern that the session could get washed out was writ large.

“Let people of this country know who is trying to obstruct proceedings,” said a government source.

The leader, however, qualified it by saying consultations with the Opposition were on but asking Jyoti to resign will not be part of any compromise formula.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government believes it is on a stronger footing given that Jyoti is a woman from a backward caste.

BJP women MPs, as also its scheduled caste MPs, met Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu to state that the Opposition was unfairly targeting a debutante woman MP from a backward caste.

Jyoti, an MP from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh, hails from the backward Nishad community.

The government believes parties such as Samajwadi Party are in the forefront demanding the minister be removed because the BJP made deep inroads into its traditional vote bank among the backward castes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In the Lok Sabha, Naidu without naming Beni Prasad Verma, a minister in the United Progressive Alliance government, said how a minister had repeatedly abused Narendra Modi and even Mulayam Singh Yadav and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2013-14 but the then government didn’t even make him tender an apology in the House, let alone expelling him.

It was eventually left to then prime minister Manmohan Singh to apologise on Verma’s behalf. However, the BJP sources denied there was any question of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has already disapproved of the comments at a party meeting, apologising in the Parliament.

In the Rajya Sabha, Naidu said Jyoti had already apologised and the matter should be brought to an end and that the “Opposition would have to listen to them for the next five years”.

This, however, inflamed the Opposition further.

Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury reminded the treasury benches, "You may have an overwhelming mandate but within the House you have to listen to us (Opposition) also," adding: "The minister’s apology is tantamount to her accepting her guilt and so a mere apology does not absolve her of the crime."

A minister later said it was the Opposition behaving dictatorially and not the government.

Opposition members, refusing to relent on their demand, stormed the well of the House and raised slogans leading to no business being transacted either in the Zero Hour where important matters are taken up for discussion or the Question Hour.

The House saw several adjournments throughout the morning.

In the Lok Sabha, Opposition members raised slogans in the presence of the PM with Trinamool Congress, Congress and Left parties staging a walkout.

Over a dozen BJP women MPs stood up to defend Jyoti. Later, the Lok Sabha functioned smoothly and passed the School of Planning and Architecture Bill, 2014 to convert three Schools of Planning and Architecture into “centres of excellence” and to enable them to confer degrees.

The enactment of the Bill will benefit students of SPA Bhopal and Vijayawada who are still awaiting their degrees. The third institute is in Delhi.

According to sources, government floor managers are busy talking to Opposition members to resolve the stand-off in the Rajya Sabha.

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