10 halts, graft bill hangs

Opposition leaders display placards during a protest in front of Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu as he speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the second phase of the Budget session, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI picture

New Delhi: The government and the Opposition locked horns over the passage of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, forcing 10 adjournments in 200 minutes but there was no resolution to the stalemate.

Of the adjournments, six were without transacting any business as the two sides sought to find a way out of the impasse in the presiding officer's chamber.

Sources said the government wanted the Chair to get the bill passed in the din but the Trinamul Congress's Sukhendu Sekhar Ray refused to go back on his demand for a division - a formal counting of votes as opposed to a voice vote.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien speaks in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Picture credit: Rajya Sabha TV

Earlier, as Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien proceeded to put the bill to vote without a discussion, the Opposition rejected the move with a voice vote and Ray immediately sought a division.

Rules mandate that once a member seeks a division, the process has to be gone through unless he or she withdraws the demand.

The government was apparently keen to force its way through with the vote as has happened often in the Lok Sabha but could not as the Opposition still has more numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

The BJP had the support of only the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and the BJD as all the other parties were opposed to the passage of the bill without a discussion.

After successive efforts to break the deadlock proved futile, both sides agreed to disengage and leave it for another day.

The BJP, however, sought to use it to build a narrative that the Opposition, led by the Congress, had opposed a bill to fight corruption.

Earlier in the day, seizing on the government's plans to move the bill for passage, the Opposition worked on AIADMK and TDP members, who have been picketing in the Well all session, to buy a few minutes of peace in the Rajya Sabha for the Leader of the Opposition to flag some issues.

While Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress managed to refer to some of the issues the Opposition wanted to talk about, pandemonium broke out when he raised the dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, something that has put the BJP on the back foot with

Dalit MPs and allies also upset with the government's delay in seeking a review of the Supreme Court order.

Just as Azad brought it up, junior parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Goel interrupted him with the help of BJP back-benchers, prompting the Opposition parties to troop to the Well.

And, it was back to both sides accusing each other of disrupting proceedings.

However, since the government was keen on the passage of the bill, Kurien took it up but ran into further trouble with Ray's demand for a division.

With neither side having its way this session in the absence of any concerted effort by the government's floor managers to iron out the rough spots, the Opposition demanded extension of the session that has been a washout till now.

Two days are left for the session to end.


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