| A policeman outside Parliament on Friday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Dec. 13: Lal Krishna Advani still feels the frisson of fear that ran through Parliament this day last year. “I shudder to think of the consequences if two of the terrorists who were equipped with AK-47s had got into Parliament. The Central Hall could have turned into a pool of blood.”
Take heart, deputy Prime Minister, if the terrorists had come calling today after lunch, chances are that our MPs would have outsmarted them. Any potential assailant would have found a forlorn House unable to conduct business because some were “scared” and some found weekend “constituency visits” too irresistible to miss.
Advani’s impassioned words — delivered at a meeting to pay homage to the victims of the attack and allot petrol pumps to their relatives — too fell on the ears of very few MPs as most skipped the event organised in Committee Room 62 of the House at noon.
Though attendance is usually thin on Fridays as members, making use of the two-day recess, visit their constituencies, today it was at an all-time low. There was talk in the corridors that some MPs deliberately stayed away fearing another attack on the anniversary.
An MP from south India, who did not want to be identified, admitted that he was scared as he “felt something may happen”. The parliamentarian said memories of rebel Fijian leader George Speight holding MPs hostage still haunted him when he thought of last year’s attack.
However, several others said they had pressing engagements and constituency-related work.
Both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha were adjourned because of lack of quorum.
While the Upper House, where not even 30 out of 233 members were present, was adjourned at 2.30 pm, the Lok Sabha stuttered on till 3.45 pm before the presiding officer called it a day.
When business collapsed in the Rajya Sabha, a senior BJP leader blamed the Opposition for the lack of quorum. “We (BJP) are only 40 in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress and others, who far outnumber us, should ensure that quorum is maintained,” he said, not realising that an hour later the same fate was to befall the Lok Sabha where the BJP and its allies are in a majority.
The Lok Sabha was discussing a constitutional amendment Bill seeking a ban on cow slaughter when it was found that the House did not have the requisite quorum. The ruling party benches had 30 members, the Congress seven, CPM two, Telugu Desam one, Akali Dal (Mann) one, BJD two, JDU one, DMK one, Shiv Sena one, PMK one and INLD one.
The House should have at least 10 per cent members (54 in the Lok Sabha) for the quorum. As the quorum bell rang continuously for some time, Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan rushed in and sent his junior, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, to bring more members from central hall and the corridors. All that Gangwar could manage was six.
After waiting impatiently for about 10 minutes, Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed, who was in the chair, adjourned the House.
On December 5, too both Houses were adjourned for the day as business collapsed due to lack of quorum. A day earlier, the government had been embarrassed as Opposition members outnumbered treasury benches when a Bill on IDBI was taken up for voting. The Congress had saved the day for the government by sending some of its members out to create an artificial majority for the NDA.
Despite an all-time record in abstentions marred today’s sessions, the government termed it as one of the “most successful sessions” as it was able to get many Bills passed with only a short adjournment interrupting the proceedings.
Thanking the Opposition for “playing a constructive role” in this session, Mahajan said: “No doubt it is one of the most successful sessions, not just in the number of legislations passed but also the quality of legislations. The legislation we passed on finance, company affairs and freedom of information have far reaching implications on Indian society.”
“I am very satisfied. There is still one week to go. There are a couple of very important legislations to be done like the competition law, and a few of them need the Rajya Sabha’s nod,” Mahajan said.