With one day left, Parliament’s Winter session on verge of washout

New Delhi: With only one day left, the Winter session of Parliament is on the verge of a washout as it failed to transact any business again today due to the standoff between the government and Opposition over demonetisation, AgustaWestland scam and some other issues.

Even on the penultimate day today, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha continued to witness deadlock that began with the start of the session on November 16 over the manner in which a debate should be held on demonetisation and related aspects.

The Rajya Sabha saw sharp exchanges between Treasury and Opposition members as they tried to outshout each other over different issues, throwing the House into pandemonium. The Opposition, led by Congress, said demonetisation along with vagaries of weather had hit the farmers and demanded farm loan waiver to give relief to them.

On the other hand, BJP members shouted slogans while displaying copies of a news report which claimed that some people in the erstwhile UPA regime had allegedly received money in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal. They wanted to know who was behind the chopper scam.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the ruling side was not allowing Parliament to function, which was “unprecedented”. “It is the ruling party which is disrupting the House…in both Houses (of Parliament), it is the ruling party which is not allowing the Parliament to function. It is for the first time in the history of independent India that the ruling party is not allowing the House to function,” he said.

Azad, who had given a notice to raise the issue of distress among farmers after demonetisation, was called by the Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to speak but he could hardly make his submission as ruling party members created uproar.

“I have given the floor to the Leader of the Opposition. It is the convention of the House that when Leader of the Opposition or Leader of the House wish to speak, they are heard in silence,” Kurien said but BJP members did not heed.

Union ministers too interjected as Azad rose to speak with I&B Minister M Venkaiah Naidu wanting to know what he wanted to say and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying the members of the ruling side want a discussion on the corruption issue.

Kurien told Naidu that Azad had given a notice to raise farmers distress and even without a notice the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the House are allowed to speak whenever they wish to speak.

To Naqvi, he said the ruling side can give a notice to raise a discussion on the issue they want, and asked Azad to make his submission.

Alleging that the Centre was anti-farmer and its policies were ruining crops, Azad said farmers are dying, their vegetables rotting and crops welting and they are not sowing seeds. Farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other states are facing grave distress and the Centre should waive off their loan, he demanded.

Using his lung power to make his submission amid the din, the Leader of Opposition said, “the ruling side is not allowing Parliament to function.”

Mayawati (BSP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Derek O’Brien (TMC) too rose to speak but nothing could be heard in the din. At this point, Congress members trooped into the Well of the House shouting slogans demanding waiver of farm loans.

Kurien tried to restore order but his pleas fell on deaf ears, forcing him to adjourn the proceedings till 1200 hours. When the House met at noon for the Question Hour, pandemonium prevailed as members of both Congress and BJP were on their feet raising slogans and counter slogans.

With both Opposition and Treasury benches creating uproar, pleas by Chairman Hamid Ansari to allow the Question Hour went unheard. He also warned members displaying some posters. Amid the continued uproar, Ansari adjourned the House initially for 30 minutes.

When the House met again, there was ruckus with Opposition members again on their feet raising their issue. Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said farmers were facing problems. Several members of Congress were heard shouting slogans. With repeated pleas for restoring of order going unheeded, Ansari adjourned the House till 1400 hours. The House saw uproar again when it re-convened.

Naresh Agarwal of Samajwadi Party said the condition of farmers is bad after demonetisation. “We hoped that the Prime Minister will announce a loan waiver for farmers which will benefit them,” Agarwal said. He said the farmers are unable to sow seeds or sell their produce following the cash crunch post-demonetisation.

Satish Chandra Mishra of the BSP said the farmers seeds are rotting and they do not have money to buy fertilisers etc. The ruling side members shouted back.

Amid a shouting match, Kurien said: “The item to be taken up is discussion on demonetisation of currency. Since both sides are disrupting, I will have to assume that both sides do not want a discussion”.

Opposition members then stormed the well of the House, prompting the Deputy Chairman to adjourn it till tomorrow.

In the Lok Sabha too, the government and the Opposition traded charges, with BJP adding fuel to the fire by bringing the Gandhi family under attack in the AgustaWestland case.

TMC’s Sudip Bandhopadhyay and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the Opposition wanted a debate on demonetisation even without voting or under any rule but there were counter attacks from the BJP side, leading to continued heated exchanges in the House.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar launched a scathing attack on the Opposition, accusing it of scuttling debate from the day the session began on November 16.

Charging the Opposition with attempting to fail the note ban move, he said Congress was trying to “manage currency” (note jugaad) post-demonetisation when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a vigorous campaign against black money.

Ananth Kumar referred to the VVIP chopper scam issue, saying the “master middleman” Christian Michel has named “the first family of the UPA” and, therefore, Congress is running away from debate. He said there should also be a discussion on the VVIP chopper scam.

This led to furious Congress members again storming the Well raising slogans denouncing the Modi government.

TRS member A P Jeethendar Reddy’s remarks targeting a section of the Opposition for not allowing debate on demonetisation triggered a fresh uproar with Congress and TMC members protesting his statements. Reddy said he should be allowed to speak on demonetisation as he had already initiated the debate a few days back when he, as also B Mahtab of BJD, had given notice on the issue under Rule 193 that does not entail voting.

TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee was heard telling Reddy as to why he was sitting in the Opposition benches and not formally switching sides to become a minister.

TMC and Congress members also took exception to Reddy’s remarks that all political parties have hailed note ban at an all-party meeting held before the start of the session.

At the outset, Kharge said his party wanted a debate as demonetisation has hit hard the common man but “Modi sahib is running away and is not coming to Parliament.”

Amid the ruckus, BJP veteran L K Advani once again vented his ire over the developments and told a group of MPs, after adjournment of the House for the day minutes past noon, that “I feel like resigning”.

Earlier when the House assembled for the day, it saw uproar as Opposition targeted the government on the demonetisation issue while the ruling BJP members sought to pin down the Congress over alleged bribery in the AgustaWestland chopper deal.

Members from Opposition and Treasury benches resorted to high decibel sloganeering soon after the House condoled the death of two former members.

A belligerent Opposition, including members from the Congress, TMC and Left parties, raised slogans demanding discussion on the demonetisation issue.

Seeking to counter them, members from the Treasury benches were on their feet waving copies of a newspaper on reports that some people in the erstwhile UPA regime allegedly received money in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal.