The Parliament logjam over demonetisation could end with the Congress on Wednesday giving up its demand for a debate under a rule that entails voting, hours after BJP veteran LK Advani embarrassed the government, lashing out at its failure to run the House.
Parliament has not got much business done after it opened for the winter session on November 16, with the Opposition taking on the government over its decision to discontinue Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes that has triggered a cash crunch.
The Opposition softened its stand during a meeting with speaker Sumitra Mahajan in the evening. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge accepted Mahajan’s offer for a debate in the Lok Sabha without invoking any rules regarding voting but said the government should suspend all business to start the discussion, sources said.
Congress party’s chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia and Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyaya also met the speaker. The government had not responded to the proposal till late evening.
The meeting came hours after former deputy prime minister Advani berated the government and the Opposition for disruptions in the Lok Sabha.
The BJP patriarch lost his cool after the House was adjourned for a second time in the day at 12.44pm.
“Who is running the House? Neither the speaker nor the parliamentary affairs minister is running the House… This is disgraceful,” he said.
When parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar rushed to pacify Advani, who sits in the front row of the treasury benches, the BJP veteran said, “I will say it publicly.”
The 89-year-old then left Parliament and did not return when the Lok Sabha reconvened at 2pm, only to be adjourned minutes later for the day. “He was blaming the Opposition,” Kumar later said.
The change in the Congress’s stance stemmed from the view that the party made its point through disruptions and it was time to corner the government during a debate, sources said.
The government could accept the Opposition’s demand, as it only had reservations about voting, sources said. If there were to be voting in the lower House, a similar demand could have been made in the Upper House, where the ruling coalition is in a minority.
On the demand for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence during the debate, the government said the PM would “intervene” but didn’t promise his presence all through the debate.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Sudip Bandopadhaya told HT. The Congress and other opposition parties are likely to take a call on Thursday after hearing from the government.
The Opposition will observe Thursday as “black day” to mark one month of demonetisation. Opposition MPs will wear black bands and hold a sit-in in the Parliament complex.
Modi was in the Lok Sabha when proceedings began in the morning. But as soon as the question hour began, Congress, Trinamool Congress and Left members trooped into the well, demanding a discussion with voting.
As protests grew louder, Modi left, having spent five minutes in the House.
A source close to Advani said he was upset with Kumar and the speaker for not taking action against the five-six “unruly MPs who have held the House to ransom”.
“Somewhere he felt that the treasury benches were lacking in their duty to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament. Hence, he said in the House that both the sides are party to it (disruption),” the source said.
In the Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley lashed out at the Opposition, accusing it of running away from the demonetisation debate.