Government, Opposition Speak In Conflicting Voices On Debate On Uttarakhand

New Delhi: Imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand is set to dominate the proceedings when Parliament reconvenes after recess on Monday, with the Congress making it clear it would seek a discussion on the contentious issue despite government’s claim that the matter being sub-judice it cannot be deliberated upon.

The controversial action of sacking the Harish Rawat government and imposition of Central rule a day ahead of a High Court-ordered trust vote, figured prominently at an all-party meeting called by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters after the meeting that the party lawmakers would move an adjournment motion seeking a discussion on it under Rule 56.

However, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy contended, “To my knowldge, the matter is before the court and when the issue is pending in court and a decision is yet to come, there is no scope for a discussion on it. The Speaker has to take a decision on it.”

Speaker Mahajan, too, appeared to share the government’s view.

“The court has given stay till April 27 and I don’t think till 27th (there can be a discussion),” she said when asked if a discussion on Uttarakhand can be allowed.

However, Mr Kharge insisted on a discussion on the issue as it was important and many opposition members wanted it.

“We have raised many issues before the Speaker, of which the main one is of Uttarakhand where an attempt has been made to destabilise the Congress government and despite a High Court order, an interim stay has been obtained by the Centre from Supreme Court” Mr Kharge said.

“We have raised the issue and want a discussion on this. A lot of opposition members agree on this and they also want a discussion on this,” Mr Kharge said.

On government’s contention and that of the Speaker that a debate on Uttarakhand was not possible as the matter was sub judice, Mr Kharge said the chair was competent to allow a discussion setting aside the rules.

“There is a rule for everything. But putting (rules) aside, the Speaker can allow anything keeping in view the importance of the subject raised. We have made the request not to cite rules in a bid to suppress issues and deny a discussion,” he said.

Another Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said if Congress raised the issue of President’s Rule in the hill state, it would have to answer why it used Article 356 several times in the past to dismiss popularly elected governments which enjoyed majority and there being no Constitutional breakdown, indicating the government’s readiness to brazen it out in Parliament.

“If Congress wants to raise the issue, then it would have to face its own history as Congress regimes used Article 356 88 times, with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi using it 50 times during her tenure,” Mr Naqvi said.

Though Speaker Mahajan said she hoped the resumed Budget session would be a smooth affair, such a possibility looked remote with both the government and the opposition likely to stick to their respective stance during the proceedings.

Mrs Mahajan said the members raised various demands, including holding discussion on drought and drinking water shortage.

“Drought across the country is a major issue and there was a demand by all for a discussion on it. All have extended their support. We all hope that the coming Lok Sabha session will function smoothly,” she said.

Mr Rudy said, “There was complete assurance from all the political parties that the House will run smoothly and the environment looked very good. All have assured and there is a broad consensus that Lok Sabha should function smoothly and all parties have said this in one voice.”