The growing hostility between the government and the Opposition in Parliament led to a face-off in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Congress trained its guns on Speaker Sumitra Mahajan too. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi led the Opposition charge against the land acquisition Bill in the Lok Sabha, warning the government that he would take the fight to the streets even if the draft legislation clears Parliament.
Before the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill was referred to a joint committee of the two Houses, the battle lines were clearly drawn in a confrontation, forcing a quick adjournment of proceedings over a remark made by Rural Development Minister Birender Singh.
As has been the case in all his interventions this session, Mr. Gandhi once again set the cat among the pigeons with the government and the BJP’s counter to the four-hour discussion on the Bill focussing almost entirely on responding to his jibes, though other members like Mohammad Salim (CPI-M)) and Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) delivered equally bruising punches. While on earlier occasions, it was mostly only Congress members who applauded Mr. Gandhi for his interventions, this time round, others in the Opposition reached out to congratulate him.
In many ways, he seemed to have set the agenda for the day with the government fielding Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to make yet another statement on the closure of a food park in his constituency in Amethi. This agitated the Congress members so much that they not only sought to drown her down with slogans but also questioned the Speaker’s decision to allow the Minister to make the same statement twice in three working days. “You have all the powers but use them judiciously,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said even as BJP benches demanded action against him. Striking a combative pose, Mr. Kharge said: “Remove me from my membership. This is unfair. We are hurt.”
As Mr. Kharge resumed his seat, his junior Deepender Hooda took over. “We do not believe the Chair has been fair to us,” he said but subsequently apologised for his remarks. A visibly agitated Speaker sought to pacify the Congress members, explaining that the only reason the Minister was allowed to make the statement today was because her earlier effort to present the facts on the issue was cut short by disruptions. As Congress members repeatedly interrupted the Speaker, she shot back: “If you do not want me as Speaker, I have nothing to say.”