Government running away from Parliament, says Jaitley; Time needed to study amendments: Bansal
High drama in the Rajya Sabha over the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill that took acrimonious turns during the over 12-hour debate on Thursday ended abruptly at the stroke of midnight without the House taking a vote on the Bill as it ran out of scheduled time.
The House was adjourned sine die by Chairman Hamid Ansari after a verbal duel marred proceedings since 11.30 p.m. as some members including UPA ally Trinamool Congress interrupted Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy's stout defence of the provisions of the Bill that came under attack.
With a vociferous opposition insisting that the Bill be taken up for voting straightaway and the government maintaining it needs time to reconcile contradictory 187 amendments moved by the members, din and confusion marked the proceedings.
“This is an unprecedented situation…there appears to be a desire to outshout each other. There is a total impasse. The House cannot be conducted in the noise that requires orderly proceedings, I am afraid the Chair has no option…most reluctantly…I am afraid I can't and…,'' Mr. Ansari told the House as he asked for the national song Vande Mataram to be played, signalling the end of the proceedings and the extended winter session of Parliament.
Commotion began some 30 minutes away from the deadline as the ruling coalition led by the Congress and the Opposition engaged in a procedural wrangle pushing the fate of the Bill to the last minute with members expressing anxiety over adjournment of the House on expiry of the last date of the Rajya Sabha.
After a brief 15-minute adjournment between 11.30 and 11.45 p.m., Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, said the decision on extension of the House cannot be taken up on the grounds that it is the prerogative of the government to call for a session including an extension and it needed time to study the amendments moved by members to have the Bill taken up for passage.
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley charged that the government was running away from Parliament and that it amounted to the UPA being reduced to a minority and that the House and not the government should decide how long it should sit.
“A government which did not have the numbers in the House has consciously first choreographed a debate so that it cannot be concluded before 12 o' clock,” Mr. Jaitley said.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the House had been waiting since Wednesday for the Bill to arrive for discussion which came only on Thursday, the last day of the sitting.
As the Opposition insisted that the Bill be put to vote without delay, Mr. Bansal said the government was willing provided the House passed the Bill voted by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. This meant that the amendments proposed to be moved by the Opposition would have to be kept aside. As stalemate and wrangling continued, the Chairman called an end to the proceedings.
Later, members of the BJP and the Left staged a protest in the Parliament complex for not passing the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Throughout the day, there was uncertainty over the fate of the Bill after the Trinamool Congress' stiff opposition to the provisions related to creation of Lokayukta by the Lokpal Bill.
The party, which is part of the government, had moved over 20 amendments and its main speaker in the House, Sukhendu S. Roy, demanded deletion of all the clauses related to Lokayukta in entirety from the Bill.
Mr. Roy said the party would oppose the bill in its present form.
The ruling coalition, which has less than 100 members in the 243-member House, found the going difficult when parties supporting the government from outside like BSP (18), SP (6) and RJD (4) announced their opposition to the Bill and their determination to vote against it.
Shameful day: Trinamool
The Trinamool later slammed the government over the Bill being deferred in the Rajya Sabha, saying it was a “shameful” day for democracy and a result of “orchestrated chaos.”
Trinamool leader Dereck O'Brien said his party was “disappointed” at the turn of events. The party had planned to push for some of its amendments and seek a division.
The Congress said it was the government's prerogative on how to take forward the Bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha.
Sinha calls Manmohan mauni baba
The BJP's Yashwant Sinha targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Sinha calling him “mauni baba” for remaining silent and failing to respond to his party colleague Mr. Jaitley's suggestion in the Rajya Sabha that the House should sit beyond midnight to take up voting on the Bill.
“It is a bad day for democracy,” Mr. Sinha said, adding the developments were unfortunate.