United Opposition firm on PM’s response

Demands action against MPs who made communal statements

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:01 pm IST

Published - December 18, 2014 12:17 am IST - New Delhi:

A united Opposition made it clear on Wednesday that it was not willing to settle for anything less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi responding to a debate on the spate of communal statements made by three BJP members of Parliament — Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj and Satish Kumar Gautam. The government, even late on Wednesday, rejected the demand, pointing out that Mr. Modi had expressed regret in both Houses for Minister Niranjan Jyoti’s objectionable remarks. The Opposition responded by saying that the Prime Minister was accountable to Parliament — by attending either House, he was not doing anyone a favour.

As the standoff — marked by walkouts in the Lok Sabha and vociferous protests in the Rajya Sabha — continued, forcing an early adjournment of the proceedings for the day, both the government and the Opposition took their battle to competing press briefings. Shortly after Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Nadu placed the government’s point of view before journalists, the Congress’s Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, followed suit.

Demanding “demonstrable disciplinary action” against the BJP MPs, Mr. Sharma accused the Prime Minister of tacitly encouraging them: “The Prime Minister is complicit. His party is complicit ... Had these incidents not happened after his first assurance, we would not have protested in the House … now, only the Prime Minister can tell us what action he will take against them,” he said.

Dismissing the BJP’s charge that the Opposition was stalling proceedings, Mr. Sharma said, “If the (Upper) House is not working, it is due to the arrogance and obduracy of the government.”

In the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, eight Opposition parties — the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (U), the Bahujan Samaj Party, the CPI(M), the CPI and the Nationalist Congress Party — have been working closely together despite their differences on economic issues.

Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that it may be difficult for the government to clear the Insurance Bill in this session, with the Congress, which is backing the legislation, indicating that its support is conditional on the House being in order. Similarly, although the Lok Sabha has cleared the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, The Payment and Settlement Systems (Amendment) Bill, and The Repealing and Amending (Second) Bill, 2014, the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha is determined that all three should first be sent to Select Committees for scrutiny.

Earlier in the day, the CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury stressed that under the Constitution, the Prime Minister was accountable to Parliament and therefore needed to make a statement before the House. The NCP’s Majid Memon asked: “He is present in Parliament, why is he not coming before the House for a discussion?”

Rejecting the BJP’s charge that Congress MP Hanumantha Rao (who was asked to withdraw from the House for the day by Chairman Hamid Ansari) had made some “unparliamentary” remark and that Congress president Sonia Gandhi should answer for that, Mr. Sharma said: “He (Rao) did not say any such thing. And even if Rao said something, it is for the Chair to examine it. We never said that since a BJP member made a certain remark in the House, Amit Shah should come and give a statement.”

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