“It is the most important financial obligation of the Finance Minister. Where is he?”

The Opposition Bhartiya Janata Party protested the absence of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on the Union Budget on Monday.

BJP members were on their feet soon after Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena rose to move three Appropriation Bills for consideration in the absence of Mr. Chidambaram, against whose name they were listed.

“This is an insult to the House,” said BJP member M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was to initiate the discussion. “The Minister is expected to be present.” He wanted to know whether Mr. Chidambaram had taken permission of the House to be absent.

He was joined by Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP). “The Budget discussion is going to start,” he said. “It is the most important financial obligation of the Finance Minister. Where is he?”

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla intervened to say that Mr. Chidambaram had to leave for Chennai. Finance Ministers had been absent and their deputies had substituted for them even during the time of the National Democratic Alliance, he said.

E.M.S. Natchiappan, who was in the Chair, said the Minister had written to the Chairman who had approved his absence during the discussion on the general Budget.

Mr. Naidu objected to this and said it was a “sad commentary” on the way the ruling party was dealing with Parliament. “It is not a question of the Chair, but the respect shown by the Minister to the House. He was here and then he went when the Budget discussion was to take place, lowering the dignity of the House.”

When Tiruchi Siva (DMK) tried to speak in defence of the Minister, Mr. Naidu objected. “Please do not defend the indefensible,’’ he told him.

Just then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the leader of the House, walked in and took his seat. Mr. Naidu said he appreciated the Prime Minister’s presence in the House, but the person responsible for the Budget was absent and this went against the Parliamentary system.

It is an insult to the House, says Venkaiah Naidu

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