On day 1, Oppn disrupts Rajya Sabha over Lalit Modi, Vyapam issues

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2015 22:48 IST
Cloud hover over the Parliament house on the opening day of the monsoon session, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. A united opposition disrupted proceedings in Rajya Sabha and forced adjournment over the Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times)

The monsoon session of Parliament on Tuesday started on a disruptive note as a united Opposition repeatedly stalled Rajya Sabha, and demanded the resignation of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and others over the controversy involving ex-IPL chief Lalit Modi and raised the multi-layered Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh.

As the opposition parties demanded a discussion on the controversy surrounding the former Indian Premier League chief, the government agreed and the chair permitted a motion for suspending the business of the House to take up the debate.

Vociferous demands for the resignations of the foreign minister as well as Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Rajasthan counterpart Vasundhara Raje led to the disruption of Rajya Sabha.

The opposition, mainly the Congress, has been demanding the heads of Swaraj and Raje since a controversy erupted over their alleged help to Lalit Modi to get British travel papers after his passport was revoked. MP chief minister Shivraj Chouhan too is under fire over a multi-layered examination and recruitment scam in the state.

The monsoon session is expected to be a rocky one and the government is concerned about key bills because of the Congress' demand for the resignation of BJP leaders and ministers.

'No resignations'

The Narendra Modi government, however, has made it clear that there would be no resignations.

Prime Minister Modi had said earlier in the day that the government hopes the monsoon session of Parliament will see some "good decisions" being made by lawmakers.

"Yesterday (Monday), the all-party meet was fruitful... We want all of us to work together," Modi said against the backdrop of opposition parties gearing up to attack the ruling BJP over its senior leaders linked to scams.

"We hope good decisions will be made in this session," he said.

Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Pramod Tiwari, and Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal had given the notice for suspending the business of the House to take up the debate.

"The government promised transparency in its functioning. This promise has been broken. There are 14 FIRs by the enforcement directorate against him (Lalit Modi). Governments change, laws don't change," said Sharma.

The Congress leader alleged that travel documents granted to the former IPL chief in the United Kingdom to travel to Portugal to attend to his cancer-stricken wife were "used by him (Lalit Modi) for tourism".

"Within two and a half months of coming to power, this (Modi) government asked the UK to give travel documents to Lalit Modi...," Sharma said.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley accused the opposition of not being interested in discussions on key issues, after the Congress sparked an uproar in the House.

"All that the opposition wants is to not let the session run. They say they want to discuss, but do not take part in the discussion," Jaitley said after the Congress alleged that the BJP-led government has failed to deliver on its promise of ensuring transparency in its functioning.

Responding to Sharma, Jaitley asked the opposition to initiate a debate: "Start the discussion, Sushma Swaraj will reply."

Later, Jaitley said: "Some opposition leaders said that they want a discussion on the role of the external affairs minister.

"I also said Sushmaji will be present during the discussions. We proposed that she will join the discussion and put across her stand, but it is clear that the opposition doesn't want a discussion."

On Twitter, Swaraj said she was ready for a debate. "I asked Shri Arun Jaitley to convey this to Rajya Sabha," she posted.

However, the opposition members created a ruckus, demanding the resignations of the minister and two BJP chief ministers. Congress leader V Hanumantha Rao was seen holding a placard, demanding that Swaraj be sacked.

Amid the ruckus, the House was adjourned till noon.

Read: Swaraj keen to make statement in Parliament over Lalit Modi row

Probe demanded

When Rajya Sabha re-assembled, similar scenes were witness, forcing another adjournment till 12.30pm and then again till 2pm.

Later, Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson PJ Kurien allowed some other members to speak ahead of deciding whether to admit the motion for suspension of the House business, even as Jaitley insisted that the debate should be started straightaway.

As opposition members sought the chair's permission to speak ahead of the debate, Jaitley took a dig at the opposition by saying: "Are we going for a discussion or are we going to give a televised opportunity to Mr Yechury?"

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury then said a probe should be ordered in the Lalit Modi case as well as Vyapam scam and all tainted ministers should demit office till the probes concludes.

"For impartiality of a probe, the person should not be in office...," he said, adding that the yardstick was the same when corruption charges were levelled against ministers of the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

SP leader Agarwal recalled the wash-out of Parliament's winnter session in 2010 over the demand for a joint parliamentary committee to look into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

"The Prime Minister has said there are no allegations of corruption; what is this," Agarwal questioned, eliciting an equally aggressive response from the ruling benches who protested the remark.

Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said: "Lalit Modi is travelling to all the countries that are havens for black money...the minister admitted she helped him (Lalit Modi) with the travel document...why does she not resign now?"

He also referred to the Vyapam scam as "the biggest scam ever".

Soon after the opposition members concluded speaking, Congress members trooped near the chairperson's podium while Kurien allowed the motion and kept calling the names of Sharma, Tiwari and Agarwal - who had submitted the motion - to move it.

Amid the ruckus, as none of the leaders responded, the upper house was adjourned till 3pm. The disruptions continued when the House re-assembled.

As opposition pressed for the resignations, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: "There will be no resignations. If you want to debate the issue, we can do that".

Rajya Sabha was then adjourned for the day.

Read: Monsoon session begins, Modi says hope good decisions will be made

(With agency inputs)

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