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House lessons from Congress

P. Chidambaram and then Ghulam Nabi Azad asked if the government wanted to run the House with just its own MPs
Ghulam Nabi Azad

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 23.07.19, 08:52 PM

The government and the Opposition on Tuesday found that the Congress still had some fight left in it when two party seniors took the Narendra Modi dispensation to task for trying to undermine the identity of the Rajya Sabha.

First P. Chidambaram and then leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asked if the government wanted to run the House with just its own MPs when the Rajya Sabha proceeded with a discussion on a bill.

That was despite non-NDA MPs demanding a reply from Modi on US President Donald Trump’s claim that the Indian Prime Minister had asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.

“If a large section of the Opposition is agitated, you will have to adjourn the House, call them and try to find a solution. You can’t ask an honourable member to speak when members are in the well and agitated...,” Chidambaram said.

“Is this the way to run the House? Then why have a House at all? Shall we all leave the House, leaving only the treasury benches and you present there? .... Let the treasury benches and you run the House. We will all leave the House and not come back at all….”

Opposition members didn’t follow through on this immediately and the House was adjourned for 45 minutes. But they did so soon after the House met again at 3pm, this time led by Azad after the veteran had given the government a lesson on why the framers of the Constitution had provided for a bicameral legislature.

“If the Rajya Sabha was to replicate what the Lok Sabha does, then why have two Houses in the first place,” Azad said, clearly irritated with repeated reminders on how the Lok Sabha was functioning well and overtime.

“The Constitution provided for two Houses with a reason: the Rajya Sabha is a permanent House with the specific purpose of scrutinising legislation that the Lok Sabha has passed….

“In the Lok Sabha, bills are passed owing to several considerations as MPs there have to seek re-election. There are regional considerations, religious considerations, linguistic considerations.… But, here we are insulated from all such considerations…,” Azad said.

“Don’t run Parliament like another department,” he said, asserting that the Rajya Sabha couldn’t be turned into a mirror image of the Lok Sabha.

Azad added: “I have to say this with regret that the Prime Minister does not respond and no minister has the guts to tell him that it is his responsibility to respond when MPs seek a reply from him. That is why the Prime Minister has an office in Parliament.”

Modi had come to Parliament as the BJP parliamentary party meets on Tuesdays. He also posted pictures of him with a BJP MP’s grandson in his Parliament House office on Instagram, drawing a caustic tweet from National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

“Cute pictures. While the opposition parties yell themselves hoarse demanding the PM explain last night’s mediation brouhaha he lets them know what he thinks of their demand by putting pictures like these on his Instagram feed,” Omar tweeted.

The Opposition parties — which met twice through the day to decide on floor strategy — will meet again on Wednesday afternoon to coordinate their action in the Rajya Sabha in a bid to keep the pressure up on the government to not just get a reply from the Prime Minister but also send a couple of bills to the select committee, particularly the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill.

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