The BJP-led NDA government on Tuesday rejected the opposition’s plea in the Lok Sabha that Parliament pass a resolution condemning the Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that have left hundreds of Palestinians dead over the last few days. This was even though the demand came from a virtually united opposition, numbering over a fourth of the Lower House.
Union parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, responding on behalf of the government, ruled out a resolution, stressing nothing should be done that could have “implications” for India’s foreign policy. It was a “sensitive issue” and the government, he said, would not jeopardise its stated policy on Palestine and Israel; but he would convey the members’ views to the government.
Later, defending the Centre’s position, he told journalists that the government “could not be made a prisoner of domestic compulsions” or permit its actions to “be coloured by political considerations”. He said the government believed in the “peaceful coexistence” of Palestine and Israel and there was no need to reiterate that in a resolution. “We are not umpires”, he stressed.
Mr Naidu’s categorical rejection saw the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and People’s Democratic Party – walking out in protest from the Lok Sabha; earlier, the AIADMK, the NCP, the Samajwadi Party the CPI (M), the CPI, the RSP, the IUML and the AIMIM had all joined in the demand for the resolution.
Interestingly, in April 2003, the BJP-led NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, under pressure from a Congress-led opposition, had agreed to a parliamentary resolution “deploring” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. Part of the resolution read: “Change of regime in Iraq through military action is unacceptable. This House calls for a cessation of hostilities and demands quick withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq.”
On Tuesday, when journalists recalled the 2003 resolution as a precedent, Mr Naidu chose to ignore it.
Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes, when the opposition, led by placard-waving PDP MPs, walked into the well of the house, demanding a resolution on Israel. The placards read: “Gaza needs our voice now”.
Eventually, the PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti – who had given notice for an adjournment motion on the subject - was permitted to speak: in an emotional intervention, she recalled India’s long standing support for the Palestinian cause, and asked, “Have our hearts turned to stone now?. What bigger issue can there be than the death of children?”
As the uproar continued, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan initially rejected the demand for a response from the government, and finally, she adjourned the house to 12.45: when the MPs returned, she permitted a brief discussion, and MPs of the Congress , IUML, Trinamool, AIADMK, AIMIM and Samajwadi Party all rose to support Ms Mufti.
But, in the end, Mr Naidu’s response left them all dissatisfied.