Oppn to boycott RS till suspensions of 8 MPs revoked, govt says apologise first

Eight suspended Rajya Sabha MPs display placards as they stage a protest over their suspension, during ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: A number of opposition parties on Tuesday staged a walkout from Rajya Sabha and decided to boycott proceedings of the House till the suspension of eight members is revoked, even as the government insisted on their apology.

Among the parties that boycotted the proceedings of the House included the Congress, which was the among the first to walkout, followed by members of the CPM, CPI, TMC, NCP, SP, Shiv Sena, RJD, DMK, TRS and AAP.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said they would boycott the proceedings till the suspension of members is revoked and also demanded that the government bring another bill to ensure that no private player should buy food grains from farmers below the MSP fixed by the government.

"I demand that the government brings another bill in the House which should ensure that no private player can buy food grains from farmers below the MSP. The government should also ensure that the MSP is fixed as per c2 formula under Swaminathan Committee and the should also ensure that all procurement done by central, state governments and FCI be not done below MSP.

"The colleagues who have been suspended for the rest of the session, their suspension be revoked. Till the government does these three things, we will boycott the session," he said in the House while walking out.

Eight members of Rajya Sabha were suspended on Monday over their "unruly behaviour" during the passage of the two key farm bills on Sunday. Those suspended include Derek O'Brien (TMC), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Rajeev Satav (Congress), K K Ragesh (CPM), Syed Nazir Hussain (Congress), Ripun Boren (Congress), Dola Sen (TMC) and Elamaram Kareem (CPM).

Azad also said members should get more time to speak and time constraint has become a major issue of discontent among opposition parties.

Suspended Rajya Sabha MPs
Clockwise from top left, TMC MP OBrien, CPI (M) MP KK Ragesh, Congress MPs Ripun Bora and Ranjeev Satav, TMC MP Dola Sen, AAP MP Sanjay Singh, CPI (M) MP Elamaram Kareem and Congress MP Syed Naseer Hussain, who were suspended from remaining Monsoon Session of Parliament over the ruckus created in Rajya Sabha during passage of farm bills. Photo: PTI

He said the sense of the House should not mean mere numbers, but by political parties as 18 political parties are on one side demanding more time.

Maintaining that the voice of the opposition and rights of members are not heard and bills are not sent for scrutiny to Select Committee or Standing Committees, Azad said, "I think the day before yesterday was the last straw that broke the Camel's back."

The Congress leader said the government now wants "one nation, one market" with which they have no problem.

"The government earlier said 'one nation, one tax' and then 'one nation, one ration card', but for God's sake, don't go towards 'one nation, one party'."

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu lamented that the chair has been dragged into the controversy and said members should not put the blame on the chair.

Naidu made a fresh appeal to members of all opposition parties to rethink their decision of boycotting proceedings and participate in discussions of the House.

"I appeal to all members to rethink their decision of boycott and participate in the discussion," he said.

The Chairman said democracy is for debate, discussion and decision and not disruption.

He also lamented that the suspended members in an interview justified their action and showed no remorse.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said: "The government is not hell-bent upon keeping the suspended MPs out of the House".

"If they express regret, the government will look into it," he said on demands by some members that their suspension should be revoked and that the government should have a large heart.

Leader of the House Thaawarchand Gehlot said the suspended members tried to portray that it is the mistake of the Chair and not the opposition.

"This is not proper. Everyone is condemning that day's incident and saying it is sad. LoP also termed it sad but he tried to prove it by saying against the Chair, that the chair had taken a wrong decision. This is not proper. I want to bring this on record. I have 35 years of parliamentary experience, have not seen such a sad incident in my life.

"Breaking mikes, sitting on table, showing hands at Harivansh Ji, climbing on table, tearing the rule book and bill's copy. This is condemnable and sad state of affairs. The LoP's allegation on chair is not justifiable. The Chair's decision is supreme, its disrespect is not proper,"he said.

Former PM and JDS leader HD Deve Gowda said the government and Opposition should sit together to run the House.

Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said, "A mistake has taken place by opposition members, but elders should be large hearted. I urge that their suspension be revoked and I apologise on their behalf".

K Keshava Rao (TRS) said whatever happened in the House is condemnable and "we are sorry for it". Tiruchi Siva said opposition members got agitated after the chair did not allow division of votes.

Ram Chandra Prasad SIngh (JDU) said, "What was their intention as they were tearing papers and throwing at Harivash babu. Division can happen only when there will be order. "

They showed aggression towards Harivash, he said, adding "It is his (Harivansh) decency that no untoward incident took place. This is not good. They disobeyed, staged dharna as if fighting for the freedom of the country. This should not be forgiven.".

Praful Patel (NCP) said his party has never entered the well or did anything which is not in the best parliamentary traditions.

"We maintain a certain decorum in the House. Whatever happened, though it is unfortunate".

"In the best traditions of Parliamentary democracy...you could consider and withdraw the suspension. It will go a long way in building the trust deficit between the ruling and opposition side," he said.

Suspended MPs end dramatic sit-in

With the opposition deciding to boycott the remaining session of the Rajya Sabha, the eight suspended MPs on Tuesday ended their overnight sit-in inside the Parliament House complex and said they would take their fight against the farm bills to the street.

The suspended Rajya Sabha parliamentarians, who spent the night in the lawns near Mahatma Gandhi's statue in what several old-timers said was the first such overnight protest in the complex, got a surprise visitor in the morning - Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh who came with tea and snacks.

Till late night, the protesting MPs raised slogans and sang songs while a host of Opposition leaders such as National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party's Jaya Bachchan and Congress' Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor visited them to express their support.

But their morning visitor did not receive the same enthusiastic response, said some of the protesting MPs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Harivansh's gesture was proof of his greatness, adding that his inspiring' and statesmanlike' conduct will make every democracy lover proud.

"To personally serve tea to those who attacked and insulted him a few days ago as well as those sitting on Dharna shows that Shri Harivansh Ji has been blessed with a humble mind and a big heart. It shows his greatness. I join the people of India in congratulating Harivansh Ji," he tweeted.

The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, the protesters said, came early with a posse of news cameras and was told by a senior MP to visit without the cameras and sit with them.

"Another senior MP also told him that while bringing tea was a nice gesture, he was still in the wrong in what he did. He was told he was the one who broke the rules," a protesting MP told PTI.

Several leaders said they did not accept the tea and snacks offered by the deputy chairman. "I did not have the tea brought by him," said AAP leader Sanjay Singh.

"Farmers have been cheated. We kept asking for proper voting and we were ignored completely. This is not the time to make friends but to fight for the rights of farmers, and we sat here the whole night to protest against the anti-farmer Bills," he added.

With the opposition parties boycotting the rest of the session, there was no point in continuing with the dharna, which started on Monday afternoon and ended 24 hours later on Tuesday, said Congress MP Hussain.

"All the opposition parties have boycotted the rest of the session (in Rajya Sabha), nobody is attending the session. They appealed to us to withdraw the dharma and since nobody is attending the session till the suspension is revoked, there is no point in continuing with the dharna," he told PTI.

His party colleague Rajeev Satav added that they will now hit the streets against the farm bills.

Trinamool Congress' Sen agreed.

"After many Opposition parties have boycotted the remainder of the Monsoon session of the Rajya Sabha, the dharna at Gandhi statue has ended. Now we will take our fight for the rights of the farmers to every town and village in the country," she told PTI.

"I demand the government withdraws this black laws passed unconstitutionally without voting. Get the voting done and then see the result. You know you don't have the required votes that is why you are scared of getting the voting done," said Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party.

CPM MP Kareem said the fight would continue.

"Opposition decided to boycott the session. Why should we attend if they don't want us to speak/vote? Govt still not ready for discussion & correct their undemocratic approach towards Parliament. We'll continue our fight for farmers & resist moves to derail Parliamentary Procedure," he said on Twitter.

Earlier, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the MPs who spent the night in front of Parliament don't need tea but justice.

"The BJP government evicted and attacked them because they stood up for farmers. Justice is their right & they will have it. Constitution expects those in power to offer justice, not tea," he tweeted.

Expressing his deep anguish and pain at the opposition members' "humiliating" conduct towards him, Harivansh has announced a 24-hour fast, saying he hoped it will inspire a feeling of "self-purification" in them.

Harivansh has been in the thick of things since the suspension drama unfolded.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had rejected a notice for a no-confidence motion against Harivansh as it was not in proper format and did not give a 14-day notice period.

Several opposition parties, including AAP, TMC and the Left parties, led by the Congress walked out from the Rajya Sabha demanding that the suspension of the eight members be revoked. But the government is insisting on an apology first.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will consider revoking the suspension only after they apologise for their behaviour in the Upper House.

Some parties like the NCP, SP, Shiv Sena and RJD also walked out of the House.

Before the walkout, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the opposition will boycott proceedings of the House till the suspension is revoked.

Speaking after Zero Hour, Azad also demanded that the government brings a bill to ensure private players don't procure food grains below the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government.

Later, Chairman Naidu made a fresh appeal to members of all opposition parties to rethink their decision of boycotting the House proceedings and participate in the discussions of the House.

Naidu, while presiding over the Rajya Sabha, said he had directed the secretary general to get in touch with the Lok Sabha Secretariat to ensure that the protesters are taken care of properly.

He, however, said the secretary general had shown him instructions issued earlier that members cannot be in the Parliament House complex for any demonstration, dharna, strike, fast or even any religious ceremony.

The Monsoon Session is scheduled to end on October 1. However, the session is likely to be curtailed with several MPs testing positive for COVID-19.

(With PTI inputs.)

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