Parliament proceedings | Protesting Rajya Sabha MPs rebuff Harivansh’s ‘tea-plomacy’

Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh offers tea to suspended MPs at the Parliament premises on September 22, 2020 as they stage a protest over their suspension the House.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh tried to bring down the simmering tempers of Opposition MPs by bringing in a cup of morning tea for the eight suspended MPs, who were on an all-night protest inside Parliament. 

He also later wrote a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, which was made public, announcing a 24-hour fast.


However, the Opposition was none too impressed with Mr. Harivansh’s olive branch and the protesting members refused to have the tea on offer even as ANI and Rajya Sabha TV captured the entire dramatic episode. 

“Harivansh ji claimed that it is a personal visit; he came in his own car. Within minutes of his visit, Prime Minister Modi tweeted praising him,” CPI (M) MP K.K. Ragesh, one of the suspended lawmakers on protest, said.

“It is very clear that BJP and their ally JD(U) realise that they are getting alienated from the people because of the draconian law. This tea trip was aimed at Bihar Assembly elections,” AAP MP Sanjay Singh said the protest was not about tea and the MPs were not on a sit-in to form personal relationships. The core issue is the anti-farmer bills that were passed without following due process, he said. 

‘Attempts to intimidate’

Minutes after his visit to the protest site, a letter written by Mr. Harivansh to President Kovind and Mr. Naidu was made public. In the letter, he expressed deep anguish and pain at the alleged attempts to “intimidate” him by “violent” behaviour by some members. He also announced a 24-hour fast, hoping that this may inspire a feeling of “self-purification” in the unruly members. 

Mr Harivansh also accused members of tearing the RS Rule Book and throwing it at him, of stomping on the table of officials who play a central role in the functioning of the House, and shouting unparliamentary and abusive slogans. This sight of “disrobing of democracy” jolted his mind and heart, and he could not sleep for the whole night, the Bihar MP said in his emotional letter.

Praise from PM

Mr. Modi was quick to pat Mr. Harivansh.

“I read the letter written to the Honourable President by Honourable Harivansh ji. Every word of the letter has given new faith in our belief in democracy. This letter is inspiring & praiseworthy. There is truth & sensitivity in it. My request is, all citizens must read it,” the Prime Minister said. Vice-President Naidu also lauded his gesture of taking tea to the protesting members. 


However, Opposition leaders, were dismissive and Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma called it a farce.

“After brazenly violating rules, procedures and practices for passing bills and making laws, the Deputy Chairman is shedding crocodile tears for Parliamentary democracy. Token fast is nothing but a farce. Hypocrisy will not wash away the sin of doing injustice to India's farmers,” Mr. Sharma tweeted. 

Responding to Mr. Harivansh’s letter, Congress Chief Whip in the Upper House Jairam Ramesh said respect has to be commanded.

“The shadow of the forthcoming Bihar elections has fallen over Parliament now. It is all very well for constitutional authorities to demand respect. They must, in fact, command respect by their non-partisan actions,” he tweeted. 

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 2:52:37 PM |

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