RS resumes debate on Motion of Thanks without opposition

The Rajya Sabha tuesday witnessed a boycott of proceedings by opposition parties, including the Congress and TMC, alleging that their voice was being “muzzled”, as the House resumed the debate on the motion of thanks for the President’s address.

Facing opposition ire after he disallowed their adjournment notices, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said his intention behind long adjournments was to promote a sense of collective responsibility among members to minimise forced disruptions.

He also expressed concern over the “negative public perception” that was being created by the disruptions, adversely impacting the image and credibility of the House.

Naidu’s remarks came after the Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice till late afternoon due to protests by opposition members including those from the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, who alleged that their voice was being “muzzled”.

Later, they boycotted the remaining day’s proceedings and also wrote to the Chairman expressing their anguish. They were protesting apparently against the adjournment of the House straight till 2 PM, minutes after it had assembled at 11 AM, thereby doing away with the Zero Hour and the entire Question Hour when issues of public importance are raised.

Participating in the resumed debate, AIADMK leader Vijila Sathyanath sought the Centre’s intervention for release of Tamil Nadu’s share of water by Karnataka and constitution of Kaveri Management Board.

“Central Government should take steps to release water and constitute Kaveri Management Board for monitoring and management of water,” Sathyanath said resuming discussion on President’s speech this afternoon in Rajya Sabha after two adjournments.

She also asked the Centre to resolve the problems of the firework manufacturers, saying none of them were using the prohibited chemicals and 8 lakh families depended on this segment for their livelihood. She asked the Centre to ensure the release of insurance money for farmers by insurance firms.

Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD) referred to the Mahanadi issue and said that the Centre should set up an inter-state tribunal and early release of compensation for affected people due to Polavaram project. He also asked the government to consider setting up a tribal museum.

Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JD-U) took a jibe at Leader of Opposition Ghulab Nabi Azad for criticising government schemes like Swachch Bharat and Ujjawala Yojana saying the Congress did nothing when it was in power and was now unable to appreciate when NDA was making efforts.

Be it the initiative of building toilets, providing electricity network or LPG connection — all these are bringing social reformation and eradicating social inequality, he said, adding that his party fully supports the schemes.

Singh, however, asked the government to formulate farmer- centric farm policy instead of production-based, and to ensure minimum income per hectare on the lines of MNREGA.

Referring to the Opposition’s observation that some governors were bypassing state administration, Singh said the Congress had done the same in Bihar in 2005 and even in Kashmir. “Today, they are feeling anquished, why,” he asked.

Accusing Congress for not giving due respect and recognition to Sardar Patel, he said Patel’s legacy has been forgotten so much that his Aurangzeb Road house has turned into “a kind of nursery now”.

Singh also blamed the Congress for indulging in polarisation in UP and Bihar in the past and was now charging the JD-U with the same because it has become part of NDA.

Supporting the government’s steps on demonetisation and black money, Swapan Das Gupta (Nom) said, “There is a lot which still needs to be done. Only a beginning has been made for making a New India.”

He appreciated the government’s efforts to end “dalal culture” in Delhi and political circle and imposing hurdles in the way of creating black money.

Ram Kumar Kashyap (INLD) suggested that the government should initiate steps towards holding simultaneous polls immediately and make efforts to convince the Opposition-ruled states. He also supported the draft Triple Talaq bill and sought certain amendments to it.

Meghraj Jain (BJP) blamed the Opposition for making fun of the Prime Minister and the government programmes like Mudra. He said the government has not repackaged any scheme, a charge which was made by the Congress leaders.

“Mudra scheme has not been designed for Mallya kind of people but to those doing small business. …In their mind, they have Mallya kind of people who have run away. They (Congress) make fun of our scheme,” he said.

C M Ramesh (TDP) objected to a demand raised by YSR Congress member Vijayasai Reddy who sought resignation of the Union Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju for not making any budget announcement for Andhra Pradesh.

Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena) said his party was worried about the tension on the country’s borders and places like Doklam and Jammu & Kashmir.

He called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give a befitting reply to Pakistan, referring to the four army men killed in an attack yesterday. He also said the Prime Minister should lead a Tiranga Yatra in Jammu & Kashmir.

Raut referred to the FIR filed against army jawans, asking what kind of nationalism was behind such a move. He observed that the Ghar Wapsi (return to the Valley) of Kashmiri Pandits has not happened yet despite promises made.

On the issue of those selling pakodas being compared to a beggar, Raut said the government should protect such unemployed individuals by bringing in a legislation as they are harassed by municipality and other bodies.

He also sought a national debate on holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state polls.

Union Minister Ramdas Athavale of the RPI(A) said there was a need to evolve a consensus on the issue of simultaneous polls. Taking a jibe at Shiv Sena, Athavale said he does not know whether Shiv Sena will be there with BJP, although his party will remain with BJP in 2019.

“.. Now even our TDP is demanding, you take whatever you need and the remaining give it to us. You take whatever money is needed for Andhra Pradesh,” Athavale said.

He said there should be discussion on reservation to Jats, Patidars, Marathas, Patidars and other economically backward castes in jobs and education.

In an apparent reference to TDP, V Vijayasai Reddy (YSRCP) raised a point of order, asking Deputy Chairman P J Kurien whether the rules permit a party which is a ruling party partner and is also represented in the Cabinet, “troop into the Well of the House and protest against the Presidential Address”.

In his response, Kurien said in a democracy, “dissent is always possible, the other thing is propriety.”

Reddy said it was really unfortunate, and if members of that party wanted to protest, they should first resign from the Cabinet. He sought special category status for residuary state of Andhra Pradesh.

He noted that members from Congress while participating in the debate on Motion of Thanks to the Presidential address have referred to the interference by government in investigating agencies like CBI, ED and Income Tax.

“I have no hesitation to say that it is the Congress party which has nurtured, articulated, and established a very bad precedent of interfering in the working of these agencies.

“I fondly hope that successive governments would not follow the bad precedent which has been set up. In fact, my party President and the President of BJP also are the victims of the interference in these investigating agencies by the Congress party,” Reddy said. PTI