Chaos in Parliament; Govt offers debate, Oppn demands ministers’ resignation
NEW DELHI: The monsoon
session of Parliament got off to a chaotic start on Tuesday as the Rajya Sabha
witnessed multiple adjournments with the opposition demanding resignations of
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and
Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the controversies surrounding them.
In an equally combative
mood, the BJP-led government tried to turn the tables by declaring it was ready
to discuss the matter of Swaraj’s links to former IPL chief Lalit Modi. The
External Affairs Minister, on her part, said that she was ready with a
statement on the issue.
“I am ready with a
statement. I was ready even today to make a statement in the Rajya Sabha over
the issue. I am looking forward to making it,” Swaraj said.
With the BJP ready with
a strategy to counter the opposition attack and take the fight to the Congress
camp, the government tried to take the wind out of the opposition sail. In the
Rajya Sabha, after Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma spoke on the party
notice to suspend all business to discuss the Lalit Modi controversy, Finance
Minister Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Rajya Sabha, said the issue concerning
Swaraj could be discussed immediately.
Citing federal politics
and precedents, the government maintained that matters linked to the chief
ministers could not be discussed in Parliament. The BJP said if a discussion
were to take place on its chief ministers, then charges against chief ministers
of opposition-ruled states should also be allowed.
The opposition said a
discussion could follow only after the resignations of Swaraj, Raje and
Chouhan. BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back, describing
this condition of the opposition a “Congress metamorphosis that started with
the demand for a discussion to demand a resignation”.
After Rajya Sabha was
adjourned repeatedly over the issue, Jaitley told reporters outside Parliament
House: “We get a distinct and clear impression that the opposition wants
disturbance for some time. They don’t want a discussion. The government is
publicly declaring, as we have said so in the House, that we are ready for a
discussion in any format, at any time.”
“Obviously state issues
can’t be discussed. There has not been a single precedent in the history of
Indian Parliament where state issues are discussed. That’s the part of federal
politics of India. But as far as other issues are concerned, we offered that we
are ready for a discussion and we are ready right now,” he said.
While arguing that the
opposition’s reluctance to accept the offer for a debate indicated its
“obstructionist” approach, the BJP has prepared its strategy for day two. The
party, which held several rounds of meetings to discuss and prepare its
spokespersons for the counter-offensive, has asked general secretary Kailash
Vijayavargiya to coordinate with state units to collect all details of the
charges against chief ministers in opposition-ruled states.
BJP sources said they
have already asked their MPs to give notice under various rules to discuss
charges of corruption or irregularities against chief ministers in
Congress-ruled Kerala, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and
TMC-ruled West Bengal.
As soon as the customary
obituary references and felicitations were over, Anand Sharma raised the Lalit
Modi issue, recapping the developments. He said it was a case of “misuse of
office and gross impropriety” by Swaraj and Raje.
Sharma said Prime
Minister Narendra Modi had promised transparency, honesty, action against
corruption and fixing of accountability before coming to power. “It’s time to
fix accountability. You have violated the dignity… The House will fix
accountability. The Prime Minister has to answer, he cannot escape. He is
silent, he seems to be on a maunvrat,” he said.
government’s willingness to debate the issue, Jaitley said the discussion could
start immediately. As the House witnessed repeated adjournments, Jaitley told
CPM’s Sitaram Yechury that he did not have to make a case for initiating a
discussion on the matter, because the government was ready.
At this, Yechury said:
“The discussion cannot replace an investigation. The House is not an
investigating agency.” He said his party was maintaining the stand it had taken
when the Congress was on the treasury benches and accused of corruption — that
there should be a high-level inquiry into the allegations pending which the
ministers concerned should resign.
Jaitley claimed the
opposition was “scared” of a debate and said Swaraj was ready to make a
statement “within five minutes”.
There have been signs
of disunity among opposition parties on the demand for Swaraj’s resignation but
on day one, they closed ranks and stood as one.
When the House met in
the afternoon, opposition parties, including the SP, demanded that Swaraj, Raje
and Chouhan resign before a discussion takes place. Congress members rushed to
the well of the House and disrupted proceedings while other opposition members