Amid indications of a fresh round of confrontation between the Opposition and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, senior NDA leaders are to discuss on Monday ways to show their disapproval of his act of referring the cases of 32 MPs, all from the Opposition and BSP, to the privileges committee for their “unruly behaviour” when they were protesting against a serious issue like price rise.
Though no BJP leader is saying the Opposition is actually considering the idea of a no-trust motion against the Speaker, affected MPs want some form of protest to show their “anguish”. They have accused him of being partisan.
The MPs, including former Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain, want to know why only the Opposition members have been targeted for their protest on April 23 when the Left had similarly disrupted the House two days prior on the same issue — spiraling prices. “We have a lot of options, including soft and hard, and all will be considered,” a senior BJP leader said.
While the UPA and Left have accused the BJP of undermining Chatterjee, because he hails from the Left, NDA members have accused him of attempting to rescue the government out of political logjams by getting “too personal” on issues that concern the opposition and the government and when the Chair’s role is minimal.
This is not the first time the BJP and the Speaker are on a collision course. In 2005, the NDA had come close to seeking a no-confidence vote against him when he had called a meeting of Speakers against the Supreme Court’s intervention in Jharkhand on the Opposition alliance’s claim for a floor test in the state assembly.
This time, NDA leaders say, they do not lose politically if the Speaker acts against the MPs for raising an issue concerning the people like price rise or a controversy involving corruption concerning a Union minister.
Last week, for the first time in the history of Parliament, Chatterjee had referred the 32 “unruly” MPs to the privileges committee for disciplinary action. They included 22 from the BJP, four from the Akali Dal, two from the Biju Janata Dal, one from the JD-U, two from the Shiv Sena and one from Mayawati’s BSP, the only non-NDA MP in the lot.
The Speaker’s contention is that it is high time he acted to restore the order and decorum of the House and got the MPs to raise issues as per rules. Last week, he had even suggested that there should be no pay for MPs if they didn’t work or let the House function normally.
Chatterjee had also taken the unusual step of dimming the lights and switching off TV cameras when the Opposition had wanted the Prime Minister to respond to Shipping Minister TR Baalu’s stand that he had done nothing wrong in writing to the PMO to ensure gas supply for family-owned companies.