In a coordinated effort on Monday, a united Opposition paralysed the Rajya Sabha, disrupted the Lok Sabha, held noisy demonstrations in front of Gandhiji’s statue in the Parliament House complex and addressed a well attended public meeting at Jantar Mantar seeking answers on the twin issues of black money and religious conversion.
The penultimate day of the winter session concluded with little official business transacted, the government’s legislative reforms agenda still on hold, and no hope of completing it on Tuesday, as the Opposition made it clear that it was unwilling to extend any cooperation unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the House to explain his government’s stand on religious conversions and “ghar vapsi” camps.
With just one day left for the session to end, the government has now given up all hope of clearing the Insurance Bill that has not yet been passed even by one House; as for the Coal Mines Bill, it has been approved by the Lok Sabha, but considering the current mood, it is unlikely to make it through the Upper House.
The government is almost certain to bring an ordinance on the Coal Bill, official sources said, while it remains undecided on the Insurance Bill — Opposition sources said that while nothing prevents the government from bringing an ordinance on it too, it might find it difficult to get it past the President. Besides, no one planning to make an investment in the insurance sector would do so on the basis of an ordinance that would eventually have to be approved by Parliament.
The parties of the Janata Parivar — the Janata Dal(U), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal(S) and the Indian National Lok Dal — had already planned to stall Parliament and hold a rally outside on the government’s failure to honour its election promises to bring back black money, create jobs and give 50 per cent profit over input cost to farmers. They found ready support from other Opposition colleagues.
In the RS, SP, JD(U) and Trinamool MPs shouted slogans and held up placards that read, “Pradhanmantri kala dhan wapas lao” and “Pradhanmantri jawab do, jawab do.” Some Congress MPs were also on their feet, chanting, “No PM, No House.”
Mr. Modi made a brief appearance in the Lok Sabha on Monday morning but did not utter a word.
Later, bearing the brunt of the Opposition’s wrath, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu admitted to the Lok Sabha that citizens had a Constitutional right to convert to another religion. “If people want to convert, they can convert. That right is there in the Constitution. The government has no role in conversion or re-conversion,” he said. “The party has nothing to do with these programmes. Individuals are taking the programmes. If somebody violates the law… in any State, the law is very clear and it will take its own course.