Failure of Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers M.K. Azhagiri to turn up in the Lok Sabha for a calling attention motion related to his Ministry held up proceedings for a while on Wednesday, as the Opposition insisted on his presence and the ruling benches — particularly the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Trinamool Congress — questioned the rationale behind their demand.

However, with Speaker Meira Kumar ruling that the Minister of State can step in for his senior colleague and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee describing the Opposition’s refusal to abide by the Chair’s decision as “totally unacceptable,” the protests died down and the discussion resumed.

The disruptions continued as members from the SP and the Congress sought to pin down the BSP for shortage of fertilizers in Uttar Pradesh. With Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikant Jena willing to table documents showing that all the States were provided more than their stated requirement of fertilizers, SP and Congress members from U.P. turned their ire on the BSP; alternately alleging that the State government was diverting the subsidised fertilizers or allowing black-marketing.

Mr. Jena said the onus of ensuring that farmers got their fertilizers in time now rested with the State governments. Only Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan had indicated shortage for the current month and asked for priority movement of urea to certain districts. This had been acceded to.

The Centre had written to the Chief Secretaries of all States urging them to check black-marketing, he added. He said States like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh had taken advance action to tie up supply of fertilizers through State-level marketing agencies. As a result, availability was comfortable in these States.

The calling attention notice was given by Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) — leading to the Trinamool Congress joining hands with the DMK when he insisted on Mr. Azhagiri’s presence — B. Mahatab (BJD), Shailendra Kumar (SP) and Lalji Tandon (BJP).

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