Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for parliamentary debate as the standoff between the government and opposition worsened on Thursday when the ruling side targeted Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Placards, slogans and acrimonious scenes played out again in Parliament, which failed to conduct business for the third consecutive day of the monsoon session.
The Congress-led Opposition stuck to its demand for the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the ruling side sought action against Vadra objecting to his Facebook post.
In the morning, minutes after the Rajya Sabha was adjourned, Modi walked up to his predecessor Manmohan Singh and other Opposition leaders, including Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI’s D Raja and NCP’s Sharad Pawar, and greeted them.
The gesture failed to break the ice. In fact, the impasse worsened when two BJP members in the Lok Sabha gave privilege notices against Vadra.
Constitutional experts and senior lawyers, however, saw little merit in the move. “It is a comment on political leaders who indulge in petty diversionary political tactics… What he (Vadra) said is just an opinion. There is nothing that denigrates Parliament as an institution,” constitutional expert and senior lawyer PP Rao told HT. “If one reads in between the lines, he is in fact fighting for Parliament....for an orderly transaction of business in Parliament.”
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day just at noon, while the Rajya Sabha was adjourned at around 2.10pm. Hours later, at a workshop on sustainable development goals organised by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, the PM said, “People have a lot of expectations from the MPs, and therefore, MPs need to work towards fulfilling these expectations.”
To drive home the point, he also praised Congress MP Shashi Tharoor for a recent speech at Oxford University.
The Opposition, however, is in no mood to relent. Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi launched a stinging attack on the PM. “The PM had said he will not tolerate corruption….his words should carry weight. But he speaks lightly, he says whatever comes to his mind, his credibility is declining.”
He said silence was the answer whenever the Congress brought up the Lalit Modi, Vyapam and Chhattisgarh scandals.
The Opposition also termed as a diversionary tactic Arjun Charan Meghwal and Prahlad Joshi’s move against Vadra.
Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi said Vadra was being dragged into a controversy because he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. “It just does not amount to breach of privilege. He is simply stating a fact that in order to divert attention, his name is being dragged in,” he said.
The logjam may continue on Friday as most opposition parties, including the Congress, SP, BSP, and CPM, turned down the government’s offer for an informal round of talks to break the deadlock.
“We didn’t feel any need to talk to the government on Friday. We have already laid down our conditions (resignation of two BJP CMs and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj) to run the parliament smoothly. There is no need for further talks now,” a senior Congress leader said.
The government failed to give a specific agenda, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said. “I was not even told, how many other parties were invited,” he said.
As the pressure mounted, the ruling side MPs, for the first time in the recent past, carried placards in the Lok Sabha, a day after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked Opposition MPs not to do this.