Neither side backing down, Parliament logjam runs on

Both Houses put together functioned for just five minutes and 45 seconds on Thursday as pandemonium breaks out over Rahul speech, Adani row; Opposition MPs form human chain

March 16, 2023 10:27 pm | Updated March 17, 2023 08:29 am IST - New Delhi

Opposition MPs hold a human chain protest at Parliament House complex on March 16, 2023.

Opposition MPs hold a human chain protest at Parliament House complex on March 16, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Both Houses of Parliament put together functioned for 345 seconds on March 16, 2023, with the ruling BJP unrelenting in its demand for an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the Opposition refusing to back down on the call for a joint parliamentary probe into the Adani Group controversy.

While Mr. Gandhi’s remarks that democracy is under attack has drawn the BJP’s ire, the Opposition parties are insistent that the government breaks its silence on the Adani issue. To futher press their point, several MPs from the Opposition organised a human chain in the Parliament premises.

The Lok Sabha worked for two minutes and 20 seconds in the pre-lunch sitting and 50 seconds in the post lunch sitting. The Rajya Sabha functioned for one minute and 55 seconds in the morning and 40 seconds in the afternoon.

Pandemonium broke out in the Lok Sabha right from the moment the House convened for the day. MPs on both sides tried to outshout the other. Trinamool Congress MPs were already in the well with black cloth tied around their mouths, accusing the Treasury benches of stalling Parliament for four days in a row.

Asking the protesting MPs to return to their seats, Speaker Om Birla said: “I want to run the House, I want to give you enough opportunities and time to speak. You have to go to your seats. You come to the well and then go outside and say that you don’t get a chance to speak. This is not right.”

The House was adjourned till 2 p.m. without even the procedural functions such as laying of the papers and standing committee reports. The post-lunch sitting was even shorter.

In the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool MPs sported black gags in the well and other Opposition members stood on their seats shouting slogans.

Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar’s pleas to maintain order went in vain. In the afternoon, Deputy Chairman Harivansh faced a similar challenge. Even before the Upper House met at 2 p.m., the Trinamool MPs made a circle around the table of the House. Watch and Ward personnel were assigned near the Chair. Mr. Harivansh adjourned the House for the day without taking up any business.

Meanwhile, in the Parliament complex at 12:30 p.m., Opposition leaders formed a human chain questioning the government’s studied silence on the alleged stock manipulation by the Adani Group. Barring the Trinamool Congress, which did not participate in the protest, all major Opposition parties were represented, including the Congress, the DMK, the Samajwadi Party, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Revolutionist Socialist Party, the Indian Union Muslim League and the Bharat Rashtra Samiti.

The decision to form a human chain demanding a JPC probe was taken at a joint meeting of Opposition leaders convened by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday morning. Speaking to reporters during the protest, Mr. Kharge said, “Our demand from day one is that there should be a probe by a joint parliamentary committee but the government is shying away from it. What we do not understand is, when they have the majority, why are they afraid of constituting a JPC?”

Among the major Opposition parties, the Trinamool Congress is alone in not supporting the demand for a JPC probe. The party, while demanding a debate specifically on the risk that SBI and LIC funds face because of investments in the Adani group, believes that a Supreme Court monitored probe — which is already under way — will be more effective.

At a press conference later in the day, the Trinamool’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien said the Congress party needed to make up its mind. “In Tripura, you will be friends with the Left, that’s your choice, in Bengal you will fight us tooth and nail... then in Meghalaya, before the election, you will write a litany on how bad Trinamool is. In Kerala, your friends in Meghalaya and West Bengal will become your enemy.” The Trinamool also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of turning Parliament into a “deep dark chamber”. “They don’t want Parliament to run because they don’t want to be accountable to the people,” Mr. O’Brien added.

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