Proceedings in Parliament were disrupted for the second day on Wednesday, with the government turning down the Opposition demand for a discussion on the price rise under rules that entail voting.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned twice and the Rajya Sabha three times.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar rejected the Opposition demand for adjournment and instead allowed the House to take up the matter under Rule 193. This evoked a strong reaction from the entire Opposition and led to a brief adjournment before the Railway budget was taken up.
Citing rules and precedents, including the interpretation of the word ‘urgent’ as mentioned in the Rule Book, the Speaker said price rise was not a “specific matter of recent occurrence” and it would come up for discussion during the motion of thanks on the President’s address to both Houses.
Ms. Kumar said she was equally concerned at price rise and believed it was the responsibility of the House to discuss it in earnest. “However, I cannot ignore rules and precedents.”
In a rare show of solidarity, Left members supported the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in seeking an adjournment, as did the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which was until recently an ally of the United Progressive Alliance. Gurudas Dasgupta of the Communist Party of India said an adjournment motion was an “extraordinary parliamentary device” to deal with an extraordinary situation like price rise, reminding the Speaker of her prerogative to allow such an adjournment. He was supported by Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The former Union Minister, Lalu Prasad, said people were looking up to their elected representatives at this critical juncture. “We are answerable to people.”
In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition charged the government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with not being interested in holding a discussion on the sensitive issue, forcing the adjournment for the day.
As soon as the House assembled, Opposition members were on their feet, demanding a discussion on price rise. Prithviraj Singh Chavan, Minister of State for Science and Technology attached to the PMO, said the matter was listed under the short-duration discussion for the day.
However, this did not satisfy the Opposition members, leading to an adjournment till noon. When the House re-assembled, the situation was no better. However, Deputy Chairman K. Rehman Khan allowed Venkaiah Naidu of the BJP, Sitaram Yechuri of the CPI(M), Satish Mishra of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Ramgopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Shivanand Tiwari of the Janata Dal (United) to make their point on the admissibility of the notice.
An assertion by S.S. Ahluwalia (BJP) that the Prime Minister was not interested in a debate evoked strong protests from the Treasury Benches.
In the continuing uproar, Mr. Rehman ruled that it was wrong to cast aspersions on the Leader of the House and the matter under debate only pertained to the admissibility of the notice. With both the Treasury Benches and the Opposition on their feet, Mr. Rehman adjourned the House till 2 p.m., and subsequently for the day.