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BJP, Congress exchange barbs as parliament logjam continues; Rahul Gandhi writes to Speaker for permission to respond to allegations

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New Delhi | March 22, 2023 2:05:14 AM IST
The disruptions in parliament continued for the seventh day on Tuesday with no indications yet of the logjam ending soon as both BJP and the opposition sharpened their attack on each other.

Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were first adjourned till 2 pm and then for the day amid sloganeering by the members of the opposition and treasury benches.

While the BJP members continued to demand apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his remarks in UK, the opposition insisted on JPC on the Hindenburg-Adani row.

Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman urged members to allow the Houses to function.

Lok Sabha passed the Budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2023-24 and the Supplementary Demands for Grants for the Union Territory amid the din in the House and sloganeering by opposition members over their demand.

The House also passed Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation (No 2) Bill 2023 and the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill 2023.

In Rajya Sabha, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar said people expect members to exemplify the highest traditions. "They expect us to engage in deliberation and enlighten the people at large," he said.

As the din continued, he adjourned the House till 2 pm. When the House reassembled, talked about his experience across the political spectrum and said he also had been a member of Congress party.

"I greatly appreciate what the Leader of the Opposition has indicated as to how many political parties I have traversed. I have benefited from enormous experience of towering giants in various political parties, starting with Chaudhary Devi Lalji, Sharad Pawarji, etc. And I have been a member of the Congress Party and most of my friends are on left side..."

"Yes, Janata Dal, with Chaudhary Devi Lalji. We had towering giants in Janata Dal at that point of time. I have also had the privilege of being a member of the largest party on the planet. So, I have traversed and, in the process, I have gathered experience. My involvement with these parties has been very impactful and my not being associated with some parties may also be impactful," he said.

Dhankar said he was earlier member of parliamentary board of NCP along with Praful Patel. "We are all friends, friends of long standing," he said.

As the members persisted with their demands, he adjourned the House for the day.

The two Houses will not meet on Wednesday on the occasion of Ugadi, Gudi Padava, Chaitra Sukladi, Cheti Chand, Navreh and Sajibu Cheiraoba

Dhankhar called a meeting of the floor leaders of different political parties in Rajya Sabha twice on Thursday in an attempt to break the logjam in the House over the issues raised by both ruling as well as opposition parties.

In the meeting, he underlined that it is prime duty of the members to run the proceedings of the House in an orderly manner which is the essence of democracy and the expectation of the people. During the one and half hour-long meeting, Dhankhar highlighted that the House is meant for debate and discussion in a collaborative manner, and not for confrontation and deadlock.

The first meeting was held at 11.30 am in which leaders of BJP, YSRCP, BJD and TDP were present. However, floor Leaders of other parties did not attend. The Chief Whip of the Congress Party and also the floor leader of the DMK Party called on the Chairman separately before the meeting and expressed their inability to attend the meeting. The Chairman indicated to these two leaders that this would not help the cause of democracy and his feelings be so conveyed to the leaders.

Members from Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, AAP, BJD, RJD, CPI (M), JD(U), AIADMK, NCP, SP, SS, CPI, TRS and AGP were among those not present.

Thereafter, the Rajya Sabha Chairman made another appeal to the floor leaders of the Parties, who absented from the first meeting, to revisit their decision and attend the second meeting which was held at 2:30 pm.

The second meeting was attended by Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, Dr Harivansh, Sharad Pawar (NCP), Dr Keshav Rao (TRS), Shri Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Dr Shantanu Sen (TMC), M Thambidurai (DMK), Sasmit Patra (BJD), GK Vasan (Tamil Maanila Congress), Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP); Union Minister Leader of House Piyush Goel and Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Palhad Joshi.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Culture Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri V. Muraleedharan and Chief Whip of BJP in Rajya Sabha Laxmikant Bajpai were also present.

To engage in further consultation, the Chairman has scheduled the next meeting at 10.00 am on March 23 with a request to all floor leaders to make it convenient to attend.

Outside the Parliament, both BJP and Congress launched sharp attacks on each other.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Sambit Patra compared Rahul Gandhi to Mir Jafar and Congress leader Pawan Khera hit back.

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil also held a press conference and alleged that BJP MPs didn't let Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge speak in the House twice despite the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha permitting him.

Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker seeking permission to speak in the House to respond to the allegations levelled at him by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"I had written to you on March 17 seeking your permission to respond to totally baseless and unfair charges hurled at me by senior ministers in the Lok Sabha. I am making such a request again. I am seeking this permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha," he said.

Gandhi said that the Rule 357 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha allows him to respond to the allegations in the Parliament."A member may, with the permission of the speaker, make a personal explanation although there is no question before the House, in this case, no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise".

Hitting out at the BJP, the Congress leader termed the allegations against him as "scurrilous" and "defamatory".

"Members of the ruling regime have made scurrilous and defamatory claims against me both within and outside Parliament. As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for personal explanations," he said.

Sambit Patra, who addressed a press conference earlier in the day, said Rahul Gandhi has to apologize for his remarks in the UK.

"Rahul Gandhi will have to apologize in Parliament. He always defames the nation. He is the present-day Mir Jafar of Indian polity. He asked the foreign powers to intervene in the country. This is a consistent 'conspiracy' of Congress and Rahul Gandhi. His participation is least in Parliament and he says that no one allows him to speak," Patra alleged.

"Mir Zafar did the same thing, he gave 24 Parganas to get help from East India Company and now Rahul is doing the same kind of politics. He is asking for help from foreign countries so that he becomes 'Shazada' in India," Patra added.

Mir Jafar had betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah and helped the East India Company in the battle of Plassey in June 1757.

Hitting back at Patra, Pawan Khera said that the BJP spokesperson would soon get a "strong answer".

"Criticizing government is not criticizing the nation. Government should understand this. The debate does not make democracy weaken instead it strengthens it. The government is doing this drama because they are trying to escape the opposition's questions," he said.

"They are worried that Rahul Gandhi might again ask the PM about his relations with Adani. There is no JPC probe yet, this is the reason they are creating so much drama. He will get a strong answer soon. We are also learning from them (BJP) how to give answers. Soon action will be done on his statement: Pawan Khera on Sambit Patra's statement that Rahul Gandhi is 'Mir Jafar' of the present era," he added.

In his press conference, Gohil referred to the Rajya Sabha record details and said the moment Kharge's name was called, the ruling party members started sloganeering and the House was adjourned.

He added that as soon as Kharge stoop up to speak at 2 pm when the Rajya Sabha resumed, sloganeering from MPs of the party in power started and the House was adjourned for the day.

Gohil alleged that BJP is seeking apology from Rahul Gandhi just because it wants to divert attention from Adani issue on which the Opposition parties are demanding JPC.

Gohil said that Union Minister Piyush Goyal refers to Rahul Gandhi's remarks in London which is against the rules.

He asserted that Rahul Gandhi had not said anything objectionable on foreign soil and rather termed the threat on democracy in India as an 'internal problem' which had to be dealt with by the citizens of the country only, and had in fact ruled out the need for interference from outside.

"If someone has to apologise, it is PM Modi as he had disrespected our country and our forefathers in many countries on various occasions, Gohil said.

He alleged that PM Modi had "belittled our achievements in 70 years" during his visits abroad by stating that nothing had been done during all these years.

The Parliament has witnessed continuous disruptions since it met for the second part of budget session on March 13. (ANI)

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