PM Modi’s absence in both Houses spurs Opposition protests

Opposition adamant that PM should speak on Manipur issue; Defence Minister accuses parties of ‘unnecessarily creating problems’ to stall discussions

July 21, 2023 08:03 pm | Updated 11:12 pm IST - New Delhi

An Opposition MP holding a placard in protest against the Manipur issue in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on June 21, 2023. Photo: SansadTV via ANI

An Opposition MP holding a placard in protest against the Manipur issue in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on June 21, 2023. Photo: SansadTV via ANI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained absent from both Houses of Parliament on July 21, leading to another day of protests, with the Opposition remaining steadfast in its demand that he deliver a statement on the ethnic strife in Manipur, followed by a structured debate.

Assurances by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that the government is ready for a discussion on the issue failed to move the Opposition.

Also read:Parliament Monsoon session updates | July 21, 2023

The day began with the Opposition MPs shouting slogans asking Mr. Modi to come to Parliament. The Opposition MPs were also carrying placards with “India wants PM to speak in Parliament” written on them. Speaker Om Birla asked the members to go back, saying sloganeering would not bring any solution to the problem, only dialogues and discussions can. “You don’t want the House to function, you don’t want the Question Hour to take place. All other members want the House to run. This is not good. Solution can be found only through discussions,” Mr. Birla said.

Defence Minister’s assurance

At this point, the Defence Minister, who is also the deputy leader of the House, said the government was ready for a discussion on the incidents in Manipur. “We want that there should be discussions on Manipur incidents. I have said this in the all-party meeting and I want to reiterate here that there should be discussions on Manipur incidents.”

“But I can see that the Opposition is unnecessarily creating problems so that no discussion takes place on the Manipur situation. I want to say that the Opposition is not serious on a discussion on Manipur as it should have been. We want a discussion on Manipur situation and there should be a discussion. Opposition should take it seriously,” he said. When the Opposition did not pay heed, the Speaker adjourned the House till noon.

Also read:Parliament Monsoon session updates | July 20, 2023

Similar scenes were repeated when the House reassembled. As Opposition members trooped into the Well shouting slogans, BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, who was officiating in the Speaker’s place, said: “This (Manipur) is an important and sensitive issue. This should be discussed in the House.”. 

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said the government had repeated that it was ready for a discussion. “The entire country is concerned about Manipur situation… we are equally concerned.” The protests, however, continued. At this point, Mr. Agrawal adjourned the House for the day.

Ruckus over Ordinance

In the Rajya Sabha, other than the Manipur issue, the Delhi services Bill replacing the Ordinance – which effectively vests power over civil services in the Capital with the Lieutenant Governor – was also at the centre of protest. Trouble began in the Rajya Sabha as soon as Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar began listing out the duration of time fixed for various Bills as decided by the Business Advisory Committee, that has members from both Treasury and Opposition benches.

Just as he speaking about the time allotted for The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2023 that replaces the Ordinance, AAP’s floor leader Sanjay Singh forcefully interjected calling the Bill is anti-constitutional. He was strongly supported by members of the other parties in the INDIA coalition, who stood up in protest. Mr. Dhankhar’s admonitions that decorum must be maintained and that the House must not be treated as a “public street” was lost in the din. K. Keshava Rao from the BRS – which is not part of the 26-party INDIA – sought a clarification from Mr. Dhankhar asking him how a Parliament could consider a legislation that is under review in the Supreme Court. The top court on Thursday referred the Delhi government’s challenge to the Ordinance to a Constitution Bench.

In response, Mr. Dhankhar, quoting Article 221 of the Costitution that details the subjects that are restricted in Parliament, said: “The House is entitled to discuss everything under the planet with one restriction. No discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court in discharge of its duties.. except upon a motion for presenting address to the President praying for removal of the judge.. therefore the concept of sub judice is totally misconceived.”

The Congress, meanwhile, tried to flag the Manipur issue and Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien questioned Mr. Dhankhar’s decision to expunge parts of his remarks that he made on the floor on Thursday. Pandemonium broke out on all sides and Mr. Dhankhar, instead of proceeding to read the rest of the list, adjourned the House till 2.30 p.m.

When the House met at 2.30 p.m., Opposition members started raising slogans demanding the Prime Minister’s statement on the Manipur situation. Mr. Dhankhar adjourned the House after tabling the report of Business Advisory Committee on the legislative business for next week.

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