As the Opposition protested the recent increase in petroleum products in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Left parties, the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party staged a walkout after the government did not respond to their demand for withdrawal of the measure.
As soon as the House assembled, members of the Left parties and the Trinamool demanded an immediate discussion on a plan of the Petroleum Ministry to shut down petrol pumps at time as it would have a serious impact on the economy and affect the people.
Chairman Hamid Ansari tried to talk them out of it, reasoning that the issue was listed for zero hour; but Opposition members remained unmoved, alleging that the privilege of the House was breached as the government had made the announcement outside, without taking the House into confidence.
As Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool insisted that the issue be taken up immediately, with the other parties supporting his demand, the Chair adjourned the House for 15 minutes.
When the House reassembled, Trinamool members staged a silent protest, standing on their seats, waving placards with slogans demanding that the increase be scraped. CPI(M) member Prashant Chatterjee raised the issue through special mention. He said it was the sixth increase in less than three months and blamed it on the government’s failure to contain the fall in the value of the rupee.
While Venkaiah Naidu of the BJP termed the increase anti-people, his party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said the announcement amounted breach of privilege as Parliament was not taken into confidence.
Mr. O’Brien accused the government of waging a war on the people. He said the proposal to shut down petrol pumps at night was ill-conceived.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, too, demanded that the issue be taken up for discussion forthwith; but Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien did not agree because it was on the list of business, and the Business Advisor Committee would take a decision. At this, Mr. Yechury, accompanied by his party colleagues and some CPI members, walked out. “You are not allowing a discussion on it, and in between, when a discussion is going on, the government has increased the prices of petrol and diesel. So we are walking out.”