Protest on Adani stalls Parliament
Loud sloganeering by Opposition members demanding discussion over allegations of fraud against the Adani group forced the Lok Sabha to be adjourned for the day on Thursday, putting the government on the back foot a day after the drum-beating over the budget.
A quieter version of this played out in the Rajya Sabha as a result of which no business could be conducted in Parliament as the Narendra Modi government appeared keen to avoid the optics of protests by the Opposition in both Houses over the Adani controversy.
The presiding officers of both Houses rejected notices submitted by Opposition members for suspension of business to discuss the matter.
Knowing well that the government would dodge a discussion on the Adani issue, the notices submitted focused more on the safety of people’s money parked with public sector entities like the Life Insurance Corporation and the State Bank of India because of their exposure to the conglomerate’s stocks.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar referred to the nine notices he had received from MPs representing seven parties on the issue but rejected them on the ground that they were not in order.
As Opposition MPs protested, he quickly adjourned the House till post-lunch. In the Lok Sabha, the government tried to nudge the Opposition to allow the motion of thanks to the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament to be taken up, saying it was the first address by President Droupadi Murmu, but the protesting Opposition members remained firm on not allowing the House to run without a discussion on Adani.
The Lok Sabha could barely function as Opposition members rushed to the Well raising slogans of “ModiAdani hai hai” and “Modi sarkar Adani sarkar”.
“Don’t say anything without facts,” Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla warned the Opposition MPs, urging them to go back to their seats and allow Question Hour to run.
Within minutes, Birla adjourned the House till 2pm. Similar scenes were witnessed when the House reassembled.
After the papers for the day were laid amid the din, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi rose to appeal with “folded hands” to allow the House to function, stressing that in the first half of the budget session the “first priority” was to pass the motion of thanks to the President’s address to Parliament. His appeal was drowned in the sloganeering.
“This is the first address of the (new) President to the joint session of Parliament. In the budget session, the first priority is to take up the motion of thanks to the President’s address. Parliament is for debate and discussion. I urge the members with folded hands to allow the motion to be taken up and not set a wrong convention,” Joshi said.
As the protesting MPs did not budge, the Chair adjourned the Lok Sabha for the day.
Outside the House, BJP leaders refrained from broaching Adani, indicating that it was a “sensitive” matter and they didn’t have the mandate to speak about it.
Privately, some leaders acknowledged that given the perception of the Adani group being close to the government, the issue could inflict political damage. But at the same time they hoped that by next week the issue would die down.
The Opposition kept up the pressure, demanding a probe either by a joint parliamentary committee or a committee of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India.
Jointly briefing the media after the morning adjournments, Opposition leaders maintained that it is not just about one corporate house but the cascading effect it is having because of the large Adani footprint.