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A week in Parliament

Opposition protests over suspension of 12 of its members in the Rajya Sabha dominated the week’s proceedings.

Deepak Razdan | New Delhi |

As expected, the winter session of Parliament began on a stormy note last week, but not on Pegasus, price-rise, or Lakhimpur Kheri violence. Opposition protests over the suspension of 12 of its members in the Rajya Sabha dominated the week’s proceedings.

That the Treasury Benches and the Opposition had not reached any understanding for smooth functioning of the session was clear when the Opposition boycotted the solemn celebration of the Constitution Day in Parliament House, three days before the session was to start.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stayed away from a Government-convened meeting of Parliamentary floor leaders for the session. The Opposition had a surprise last Monday when Deputy Chairman Harivansh took up a Motion moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi for the suspension of the 12 members for their conduct in the last session of the Rajya Sabha. Six of them were from the Congress, two each from Shiv Sena and Trinamul Congress, and one each from the CPI and the CPI (M).

An indication of this could be guessed when Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu gave a statement recalling the “bitter and unpleasant” experiences of the last Monsoon Session. Opposition was annoyed that all its notices under Rule 267 to raise certain issues were rejected by the Chairman. Before members called by Naidu could speak, members of the Opposition were already in the Well of the House.

Before its break for lunch at 1 pm, the House was adjourned till 2 pm. Around that time the Lok Sabha had already seen a 45-minute adjournment before noon. Speaker Om Birla told the members to keep the peace as it was the first day of the session.

Post-adjournment, the Lok Sabha passed the Bill to repeal the three controversial farm laws within minutes. Leader of the largest Opposition party Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury kept asking for a debate on the Repeal Bill but the soft-spoken Speaker had only one condition that the members in the Well of the House should resume their seats.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar took no chances and even in the chaos, he went through Clause by Clause passage of the Bill by voice vote. Post-lunch, the Rajya Sabha had the same sequence of events.

Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge was invited to speak and he said the Government had after one year and three months heard the voice of the farmers. Perhaps reversals in some by-elections too had convinced the ruling BJP to change its stand as there was danger of losing public support because of the three laws.

The abrupt passage of the farm laws and their equally abrupt repeal showed the Upper House must never forget its mandate to prevent the hasty passage of laws. The Upper House had more action on the first day itself. After two adjournments following the passage of the farm laws repeal Bill, the Deputy Chairman allowed the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to move the motion for the suspension of the members for their conduct on the last two days of the Monsoon Session. Joshi gave a detailed account of the happenings.

The Motion was adopted by a voice vote and the House was adjourned for the day. The rest of the week had some business, but the Opposition kept questioning how could members be punished for conduct in a previous session of the House. While the Opposition staged a sit-in at the Mahatma Gandhi statue within Parliament House precincts, the two Houses went through business amidst protests.

Amidst fears of Covid’s Omicron variant, the Lok Sabha sat past midnight on Thursday and had an over 11 hours discussion on the pandemic following observation by Birla.

The week ended with the Chairman’s ruling in the Upper House that unless the suspended members showed remorse for their actions, revocation of their suspensions could not be considered. He said Leader of the House Piyush Goyal and Kharge could sit together and sort out the matter. Goyal said the suspended members were justifying their acts. He was in disbelief, he said when the suspended members told him “apology for what?”