New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday witnessed acrimonious scenes and three adjournments in the pre-lunch session over Leader of the House Arun Jaitley’s remarks that adjournment notices were being “grossly abused" for publicity.
Trouble started soon after the House met for the day at 11 am when Congress leader Anand Sharma wanted to raise an issue under Rule 267, which prescribes suspension of business to take up a matter. Several members had given notices under Rule 267. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien did not allow several of these notices but asked Sharma to spell out his matter.
The Congress leader said the NDA government was making efforts to undermine the stature of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Kurien disallowed this notice but Jaitley, Minister of finance and defence, objected to Sharma’s remarks, saying adjournment notices were being “grossly abused" for publicity. This led to vociferous protests by the Congress members.
Amid the protests, Jaitley went on to say, “In every case, we have found these are not issues under the motion of Rule 267 and therefore, it is a practice which is being grossly abused. Therefore, the Chair must also be guided by a principle that you can’t have a Zero Hour for the benefit of TV cameras. That is what something which is happening on Wednesday. ... This has all been enacted."
He demanded that Sharma’s remarks be expunged. He said some other members have also given notices and the Chair must protect their rights. He was apparently referring to a notice given by BJP member Subramanian Swamy to raise the issue of Samjhauta Express blast of 2005, regarding which some media reports have suggested that some crucial evidence had been ignored.
Jaitley also insisted that rules do not allow references being made in the House to those who have held high Constitutional positions. Sharma, however, said he had not referred to any high dignity. To this, Jaitley said, “we know the spirit of what you are saying." Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government was trying to insult leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru who had fought for India’s independence.
“The centenary of those people are being observed who had no connection with the freedom struggle. They are doing ‘pick and choose’," he alleged. Kurien said all notices under Rule 267 were being rejected but the Chair has to first listen to the member to take a decision. DMK member Thiruchi Siva said he was “hurt" by Jaitley’s remarks that issues were being raised for TV publicity. To this, Jaitley said, “Every day what is not point of order is raised as point of order knowing fully that you are violating the rule.
“None of us were born today that we don’t realise each other’s games. We know this noise is being created only because some members want to raise the issue of Samjhauta case. We know that. Don’t provide an alibi. I know they are your ally parties. Don’t provide an alibi." He said if members want to raise the issue of Samjhauta, they should be allowed. “Don’t deflect the issue," he noted. Congress members then entered the Well, raising slogans and forcing a brief adjournment of the House till noon.
When the House re-assembled for Question Hour, the Opposition members demanded expunction of Jaitley’s remarks that adjournment notices were being “misused" for publicity. As the opposition members remained adamant over their demand for removal of Jaitley’s remarks from the records, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the House for ten minutes. The House was again adjourned for ten minutes as leaders of several parties discussed the impasse over the issue in the Chairman’s chamber. Ansari later said the records will be examined but no conclusion can be arrived at till this is done.
“Let the Chair do its own work." Azad said he respected the Leader of the House, who normally uses measured language and has never used words which hurt anyone. “But to say that opposition leaders raise issues for TV channels is not acceptable. We raise issues of the have-nots, that include Dalits, oppressed, downtrodden and the poor and not for the television, which only covers the government," Azad said. His colleague, Sharma said these words cannot be part of the proceedings.
“The entire opposition is being castigated. We cannot allow this sweeping condemnation of the entire opposition." Earlier, BJP member Subramanian Swamy said he should be allowed to raise a point of order regarding the Samjhauta train blast case.