The tumultuous Winter session of Parliament ended on Wednesday, a day before schedule, with proceedings in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha marred by repeated disruptions by the opposition over which the government and the Congress traded charges and the presiding officers expressed their anguish at the conduct of some MPs.
IMAGE: Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with party MPs leave Parliament House after both the Houses were adjourned sine die ahead of schedule, in New Delhi, on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo
While Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the opposition seems to be ‘unable to digest’ the mandate of 2019 when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance retained power, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) accused the government of ‘manufacturing majority’ in the Rajya Sabha by suspending opposition members in contravention of the rules to get key legislations passed in the din and without a discussion.
Joshi said that despite the opposition disruptions the Lok Sabha registered a productivity of around 82 per cent and for the Rajya Sabha it was around 48 per cent.
The session began on November 29 and was due to end on December 23.
“It is unfortunate that despite our efforts and reaching out to the opposition, they created ruckus in the House. It seems that Congress and other opposition parties are unable to digest the mandate of 2019 given by the people,” he told reporters after the two Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die.
The suspension of 12 opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha for their ‘unruly’ conduct in the previous session in August and the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in Uttar Pradesh in which Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is a key accused were among the major issues over which the opposition protested relentlessly.
Opposition members trooped into the Well of the House in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha carrying placards on multiple occasions.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu lamented that the Upper House functioned ‘much below its potential’ due to repeated disruptions and urged all members to reflect and introspect if this session could have been different and better.
“I don’t want to speak elaborately on the course of the session that would lead me to make a very critical view.”
He stressed that rulings, regulations and procedures have to be followed and that precedents, decency and decorum have to be maintained by members in the House.
Naidu also called on members for ‘realisation of what has happened is wrong’ and said ‘we should all work towards a constructive and positive atmosphere for the larger interest of the country’.
Later, Naidu, who is the Vice President, said there is a need to inculcate legislative temper in our politicians.
“We should not only develop a scientific temper but I feel now we must inculcate legislative temper in our politicians, this is the need of the hour. As I am presiding over the upper house I see what is happening….Vijay Raghavan (Principal Scientific Advisor) should come up with some scientific invention to help our politicians with legislative temper,” he said speaking at the inauguration of celebration of birth centenaries of inspirational scientists by Vigyan Prasar.
Naidu said the purpose of legislators is to legislate and ‘discuss, debate and decide not disrupt’.
“This should be a guide, principle for any. On one side we are making progress on the other some of our selected representatives are making mockery of the institutions.
“This has to be corrected at the earliest and this has to be done by the political leaders and also the opinion creators. People who perform better should be appreciated, reported and supported. People who damn the system need to be damned,” he said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla told reporters that agreements and disagreements on issues may be reflected in debates and not through disruptions.
Noting that a smooth conduct of the House is the responsibility of all stakeholders, Birla said it must be run in accordance with the collective will and consensus.
On differences among political parties on several issues, Birla said they are natural in a functional democracy but they need to be reflected in the form of healthy debates and appealed to the members not to resort to disruptive tactics in the House.
Addressing a joint press conference, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and party’s chief whip in the upper house Jairam Ramesh accused the government of throttling the voice of the opposition to prevent them from raising issues of public importance.
“The intention of the government was to get their bills passed urgently in the din and without a discussion. They wanted to fulfil their agenda,” Kharge said.
Kharge claimed that while the United Progressive Alliance has 68 members in the Rajya Sabha along with 50 of other opposition parties and 2 independents, the opposition strength is 120 members and 118 for the NDA.
He alleged that the government did not want a division as they were in a minority and with this in mind, they suspended 12 MPs on the very first day of the Winter session.
“Their purpose was to manufacture a majority and they found this way of suspending members for their acts in the last session. This was a conspiracy on the part of the government to get their key legislations passed as part of their agenda and not face any issues of farmers, price rise, unemployment, Lakhimpur Kheri incident,” he alleged.
“We have done no mistake and it is the government which has committed the mistake, deliberately, as they did not have a majority in the upper house and they feared their bills would fall.”
TMC floor leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien also alleged that government has tried to manufacture majority in the upper house by suspending 12 MPs.
“Under this dispensation the democracy is being mocked at and dismantled everyday. They are giving slow poison to the Parliament,” O’Brien, who was suspended from the House on Tuesday, told reporters.
Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni, who is the BJP’s chief spokesperson, said the session is meant for the Opposition to question the government over various issues and raise its concerns in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, but the Opposition instead ‘undermined’ Parliament’s dignity with its misconduct and disruption.
“Parliament’s session is the time to raise people’s issues. But the Opposition failed in its role to raise pro-people issues. The Congress and its allies always ignore issues of the masses. That is why people have also ignored them,” Baluni said.
During the session, 13 bills — 12 bills in Lok Sabha and one bill in Rajya Sabha — were introduced, while 11 bills were passed by both Houses of Parliament, Joshi said at his news conference.
The government has referred six bills to parliamentary committees for greater scrutiny, including the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill that seeks to override personal laws of different religions, Joshi said.
He also rejected the opposition’s charge that adequate time was not granted to them for studying the bills, particularly the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill.
The Bill was circulated in advance and to prepare for an informed debate, the minister said.
The Bill to link electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday amid a walkout by the Opposition and high drama when Derek O’Brien flung a House rulebook at the reporters’ table after which the TMC MP was suspended from the House till the end of the current session for ‘unruly behaviour’.
With this, the electoral reforms bill described as a revolutionary step by the Centre, secured Parliamentary approval.