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Protests over Gaza-shy govt

New Delhi, July 16: The government today shied off a discussion on the West Asia violence, triggering protests in the Rajya Sabha where the issue had been listed for debate, and forcing the foreign minister to concede that she had not been consulted.

The disruptions led to two adjournments before deputy chairman P.J. Kurien wrapped up proceedings in the afternoon.

Yesterday, a combined Opposition had walked out of the Lok Sabha after the government refused to pass a resolution condemning Israel’s attacks.

The “unprecedented spurt” in violence in Gaza and the West Bank area of Palestine had been listed for discussion in the upper House but the government argued against it, saying it could affect India’s “diplomatic relations” with both Israel and Palestine.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said she has written to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari that the matter was “neither admissible... nor desirable” and added that she had not been “consulted” before the matter was included for a short-duration discussion in the day’s list of business.

“In my letter I have quoted the rule and said there cannot be any discourteous reference against any friendly nation. In this case we have diplomatic relations with both countries,” Sushma said.

“Let us wait for the chairman’s decision,” she said, drawing Opposition protests.

The list of business is prepared by the Business Advisory Committee that includes leaders of various parties who hold consultations with the House chairman. This morning, junior parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Javadekar apparently did not object to the inclusion of the Gaza violence in the final list of business.

A minister later said it was an “error of judgement” on the part of Javadekar.

The Opposition members raised the issue immediately after question hour ended at noon. But Kurien, who was chairing the session, wanted that the matters for zero hour (noon to 1pm) should be taken up.

Congress leader Anand Sharma said the sense of the House was to discuss the Gaza violence — which has already claimed over 200 lives, including children — and it should not be dropped. His party colleague Satyavrat Chaturvedi said the revised list of business was the property of the House. “As the issue is in the list of business, it cannot be dropped.”

Trinamul leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said that when an issue has been listed for discussion under Rule 177 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, the chairman is deemed to have consulted the minister concerned.

When Kurien ruled that the railway budget be discussed, the protesting Opposition members, mainly from the Congress, rushed to the well of the House.