Treasury benches help Jaitley take the floor first; DMK’s Siva protests chair giving precedence to Maitreyan of AIADMK
The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Railway budget and the Finance Bill but not without ado that caused some discomfiture to both the chair and the treasury benches.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien faced opposition when he sought to pass the Railway budget after Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal moved the Bill. BJP members protested the move to pass the Bill clause by clause, insisting that the chair was deviating from what had been agreed upon to help meet the constitutional requirement even though they were opposed to the functioning of Parliament.
The BJP wanted Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley allowed to make a speech before the Railway budget, the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill were taken up for passage.
Keen on getting these Bills passed without much difficulty, the treasury benches favoured that Mr. Jaitley speak first. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram urged the chair to allow the Opposition leader to speak and directed Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla to go and talk to Mr. Kurien.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and veteran Congress leader Karan Singh also intervened to help facilitate the BJP take the floor first.
Eventually when Mr. Kurien sought to club the three Bills together for discussion, Mr. Bansal seemed to suggest that the Railway budget be taken up for discussion first. But Mr. Chidambaram prevailed upon him not to insist on that.
Even as this hurdle was crossed, a more complex issue arose a little later. Who should speak first the AIADMK’s V. Maitreyan or the DMK’s Tiruchi Siva?
Mr. Kurien called Mr. Maitreyan to speak, to which the DMK member objected, insisting that the usual order based on the strength of a party be adhered to. The chair stood its ground, saying he had just acceded to Mr. Maitreyan request which was quite normal in conducting discussions.
Mr. Siva accused the chair of bypassing the DMK always and creating problems and disputes between the two Tamil Nadu parties.
Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan urged the chair to allow Mr. Siva to speak first, saying the House would eventually hear what Mr. Maitreyan had to say.
But Mr. Kurien refused to budge, saying he could not rescind his decision once he had called Mr. Maitreyan to speak. “Why should I do? This happens several days. You are questioning the discretion of the chair.”
Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Bansal too pleaded with the chair to relent and allow Mr. Siva to speak. Mr. Kurien, instead, sought to know whether Mr. Maitreyan would concede ground but the AIADMK member refused.
Mr. Ramesh then suggested in a lighter vein that the chair allow both Mr. Maitreyan and Mr. Siva to speak simultaneously. Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal butted in, suggesting that he be allowed to speak, instead, to break the ice.
Then Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Bansal, along with other Congress leaders, reached out to both Mr. Siva and Mr. Maitreyan, urging one of them to relent.
Mr. Shukla suggested a way out to the chair and Mr. Kurien appealed to Mr. Siva to allow Mr. Maitreyan to speak first. Mr. Siva’s party colleague Kanimozhi also spoke to him.
Reluctantly, Mr. Siva took to his seat and gestured to the chair that it could proceed with the discussion the way it wanted. However, one of his colleagues walked out in protest, saying his party’s prestige had been harmed.
Apparently the pressure had taken its toll on Mr. Kurien, who referred to Mr. Bansal as Mr. Paswan when he asked the Minister to move the Railway budget. The government reply was limited to Mr. Chidambaram’s speech.