Within five days of its first budget session, the Narendra Modi government faced its first major embarrassment in Parliament, courtesy its errant railway minister and his deputy.
When the debate on railway budget started, neither rail minister Sadananda Gowda nor his junior minister Manoj Sinha were present in the House. The Opposition created a furore over this. After 10 minutes, both Gowda and Sinha rushed to the House and apologized to the Lok Sabha.
When the budget discussion started in the afternoon, the Opposition members quickly realised that the ministers concerned were not present.
Lodging a formal protest, Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury, a former rail minister himself, said, “This is the new government’s first budget and they are also ministers for the first time. Their absence shows an indifference which is demeaning the dignity of the House.”
Although commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman was present and assured the House that the ministers were on their way, the Opposition went on the offensive.
Chowdhury and others proposed that the House may be adjourned till the ministers come.
A few hours before this incident, in morning, NDA veteran LK Advani looked seemingly unhappy about the absence of more ministers when the Opposition onslaught was on over the Andhra Pradesh state reorganization act. Advani was seen expressing his apparent disappointment with the minister of state for parliamentary affairs Santosh Gangwar.
During the UPA 1 regime, then coal minister Shibu Soren had earned the wrath of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for being absent when an issue related to his ministry came up for discussion.
After Gowda and Sinha came and apologised, the Chair also said that ministers should be on time. Sitharaman also gave a categorical assurance that such a situation would not happen again.