The first week of the second leg of the Budget Session was a washout, as both ruling and Opposition parties hardened their stance, with the audio of the televised proceedings of the Lok Sabha being muted.
Sources in the Lok Sabha Secretariat told The Hindu that the audio of the televised proceedings got muted because of a “technical issue” but the Opposition members reacted sharply and accused the ruling establishment of stifling their voices.
Lok Sabha adjourned for the day in 20 minutes after it convened in the morning amid slogan shouting by both Treasury and Opposition benches. The ruling side continued to demand an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his alleged “anti-India” remarks that he made in the U.K, while the Opposition reiterated its call for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Adani-Hindenburg issue. Adding to the chorus, the Congress members, soon after the House assembled for the day trooped into the Well demanding that Mr. Gandhi, who was present in the House, be allowed to speak. Coinciding with their slogans “ Rahul Ji Ko Bolne Do” (Let Mr. Gandhi speak), the audio of Sansad TV was muted.
On Friday, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla at his chamber, asserted that there cannot be any breakthrough unless Mr. Gandhi is allowed to speak. “It is his right to speak and respond to the allegations on the floor of the House,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “How can you break the logjam when the ruling party is resorting to disruptions?” the Congress MP asked. Mr. Gandhi had met the Speaker on Thursday.
Mr. Birla’s exhortations to bring the House in order went in vain. “Honourable members, I appeal to you to allow the House to run smoothly. People did not send you here to do this. I will give everyone an opportunity to speak, but the House has to be in order,” Mr. Birla said. As protesting members ignored his pleas, the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.
Congress reacted sharply to the audio of Sansad TV being muted. Party’s Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi called it “a new low for democracy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “The muting of sound on Sansad TV is a new technique. You don’t need to switch off individual microphones if you can shut down the transmission of sound to the world!”
Party’s general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh speaking to The Hindu further elaborated on the point. “Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar claimed a few days ago that mikes are never switched off in India’s Parliament. I had immediately challenged that claim and incurred his displeasure. This morning mikes were indeed switched off in the Lok Sabha for more than 15 minutes and there is conclusive evidence for it,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha ran for 20 minutes with initial calm while tabling papers and the Standing Committee reports. With the procedural things out of way, chaos broke out. Chairman Dhankhar informed the House that he had received 11 adjournment notices under Rule 267 (seeking suspension of day’s business to discuss important issues) but disallowed those. “After carefully going through the issues, the notices, I find, cannot be allowed,” he said. Thereafter, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge sought to speak but was not allowed, triggering an uproar by the members of the Congress and other Opposition parties.
The members of the Treasury benches also stood up in protest repeating similar slogans as their Lok Sabha colleagues. Taking up the point of order raised by Mr. Kharge, the Chairman directed Leader of the House Piyush Goyal to authenticate the assertions made by him on March 13 and 14.
“With respect to the point of order raised by the Leader of Opposition, I find it expedient to direct the Leader of the House to authenticate the assertions made by him on March 13 and 14 on the issue during the course of the day,” Mr. Dhankhar said. Amid slogan shouting, the Chairman adjourned the House till Monday.
There are only 14 days of sitting left to clear key legislative business including the Appropriation Bill and to hold debate on key subjects such as Railways and Rural Development.
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