Opposition Skips Govt Meet on House Logjam Over MPs’ Suspension, Centre Hits Back


Five Opposition parties on Monday boycotted a meeting called by the government to end the logjam in the Rajya Sabha that has arisen from the suspension of 12 lawmakers, leading to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) accusing its political rivals of working with “mantra of disturbance and disruption” to ensure the Upper House did not run.

With just three days left in the winter session and the government’s belated attempt falling through,the Rajya Sabha’s productivity is set to suffer yet again. According to PRS Legislative Research data, the Upper House has been able to spend just 44% of its allotted time in House business so far this session.

The meeting between Union ministers and leaders from the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Shiv Sena, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Communist Party of India, slotted for 10am, met with its predetermined fate after Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi on Sunday that the invitation to just five parties was “unfair and unfortunate”.

On Monday, Kharge convened an Opposition meeting at 9.45am and informed other leaders that they have “made our position clear”. “When the entire opposition is united, there is no point attending the meeting,” he said.

Union minister and the Leader of the Rajya Sabha, Piyush Goyal, who waited for the opposition leaders at the meeting venue, later lashed out at them for the no-show. “They have nothing to offer except disturbance and disruption. They could have made their point in the meeting and the government might have invited everyone”, he said. “The leaders of five Opposition parties were called at the direction of Rajya Sabha Chairman,” Goyal added.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi refuted the government’s attack that the Opposition was being obstructionist, and said that if the Centre has the courage it should allow debates on issues raised by the Opposition. “There is a non-stop attack on democracy and that is why we are fighting here,” Gandhi said, accusing the government of not allowing debates on price rise, Lakhimpur Kheri, and other issues.

Reiterating the demand for sacking junior minister for home Ajay Kumar Mishra, Gandhi tweeted, “What kind of government is this that it does not know how to handle Parliament?”

Upping their ante on Monday, four Opposition parties – Congress, DMK, TMC and SP – also boycotted the Rajya Sabha’s Business Advisory Committee meeting that decided the last three days’ business of the House. The Congress, meanwhile, issued a three-line whip to its members asking them to attend Rajya Sabha on Tuesday “without fail” and “support [the] party stand.” Some Opposition leaders also walked out of the Upper House after Kharge could not speak in the House over the suspension of the MPs.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi pointed out that “the precedence for over six decades has been that suspended members have almost always apologised for their conduct before being allowed to join Parliament’s proceedings”.

Later in the day, both sides met Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu separately. The Congress leaders also demanded that the bill to enhance age of marriage for women should not see hasty passage but be scrutinised by parliamentary panels.

According to officials, the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill and Mediation Bill 2021, too, is likely to be sent for scrutiny.

(With inputs from agencies)


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