The Opposition levelled charges of the BJP intimidating MPs and weakening democracy before the RTI amendment bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Jitendra Singh, the minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, on July 19. Within a week the bill was passed in the two Houses. The bill would allow the central government to determine the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state information commissioners.
Congress leaders alleged that the central government doesn’t trust in state governments. Trinamul Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien said federalism would be seriously hurt with the proposed amendments.
Several MPs, including O’Brien, gave a notice to send the bill to a select committee. But realising that they don’t have the numbers to win a vote to do that, the Congress leaders walked out before the voting concluded.
“In the last 28 days we have seen this glorious institution of Parliament under serious threat,” O’Brien said.
The Trinamul leader said that in the 14th Lok Sabha, 60 per cent of the bills were sent for parliamentary scrutiny, in the 15th Lok Sabha 71 per cent were sent. In the last, that is the 16th Lok Sabha, O’Brien claimed, it went down to 26 per cent.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly called NDA allies such as the BJD’s chief Naveen Patnaik to see the bill through in the Rajya Sabha. By late evening, it was clear that the government had the numbers it needed with support from BJD, TRS and YSR Congress.
As the voting was under way, chaos took over the Rajya Sabha. Opposition leaders walked to well of the house and alleged “horse trading”. There were demands to cancel the voting.
As the members walked back to their seats, Congress leader and the Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad addressed the deputy chairman. “When there were speeches after speeches during the Presidential address, the honourable Prime Minister was there. I had said then that ‘how 303 seats are won’. This is an example,” Azad said. “Ministers intimidate the leaders of political parties inside Parliament. This is our charge on you. And your ruling party members get signatures from them. You want to convert this Parliament into a government department,” he said.
Congress members walked out as Azad alleged that they had no trust in the ruling party that was destroying democracy.