Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's comments questioning the manner in which Maoist leader Azad had been killed created an uproar in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday with Left and BJP MPs taking up the issue and the government saying that their contention was based only on media reports.
A day after Banerjee's statement that she stands by her speech at Lalgarh in West Bengal, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury sought a clarification from the government.
"Nothing of that sort happened," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan said intervening in a zero hour mention on the issue by Yechury.
"When the issue was raised first, I said that I'll find out the details from the minister... these are only media reports. We must find the facts," Chavan said
The Left found an ally in the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had raised the issue in the house last week. As BJP members joined them in the protest, MP Ravi Shankar Prasad countered the assertion, saying he had seen Banerjee speaking on TV.
He also said Banerjee's statement was a "breach of collective responsibility of the government". Slamming the government on this, the opposition parties shouted slogans in protest.
Yechury pointed out that Chavan himself didn't look convinced as his colleague Brinda Karat shouted "shame shame". Yechury also referred to the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who left the house soon after question hour.
"We are disappointed that the prime minister walked out, through you (Chair) I would ask him to stay," Yechury said as he began his mention.
"The prime minister on several occasions has called the Maoists the greatest threat to internal security... how can a minister in the union cabinet who has taken oath under the constitution go against the head of the cabinet... is it permissible under the constitution," he asked.
Members from the Trinamool Congress, including Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi, were up on their feet protesting the mention.
Strongly objecting to Trivedi's interference, BJP member SS Ahluwalia raised a point of order stating that the minister was a member of the Lok Sabha and should not disrupt the proceedings in the upper house.
Deputy Chairman K Rehman Khan made repeated pleas to pacify the Trinamool members.
"She (Banerjee) said the government has indulged in murder, it's an absolute negation of the authority of government," Yechury added. At a rally earlier this month in Lalgarh, Banerjee condemned the "manner" in which Azad was killed at Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh July 2.
Banerjee on Wednesday stuck to her comments suggesting that Maoist leader Azad was killed in a staged shootout and said she was happy the rebels had responded to calls from the president and the prime minister to come for talks.
Azad, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, was a member of the central committee of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). He was gunned down along with a freelance journalist, Hem Chandra Pandey.