The controversy around imposing President’s Rule in Uttarakhand rocked Parliament on Monday as Congress members protested against the government’s “undemocratic” move, stoking fears that reform legislation could be the casualty of a political impasse.
The first day of the second budget session saw Congress MPs storming the well in both houses, carrying placards and shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The main opposition party wanted to discuss the Uttarakhand issue in both houses but the government turned down the request, saying the matter was “sub-judice”.
Angry with the NDA’s response, opposition members disrupted Parliament many times before forcing an adjournment in the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha also saw several disruptions.
“We want the house to function and legislation passed. But we have seen how an atmosphere was created to stall the proceedings... President’s Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand without following any rules,” said Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The Uttarakhand high court struck down President’s Rule in the state last week but the Supreme Court stayed the order a day later.
Minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Prathibhai Chaudhary tabled copies of the proclamation of President’s Rule in Parliament. The March 27 Uttarakhand governor’s report was also tabled in a bid to corner the Congress. “The government clearly wanted to show why it had to take the decision to dismiss the state government,” said a parliamentary observer.
Azad insisted the matter be discussed in the House, describing the government’s action as “a murder of democracy” but minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the matter was sub-judice.
“It will come up for discussion before the House. This House will have an opportunity to discuss it…You cannot discuss it at the pre-proclamation stage,” said finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Congress leader M Malikarjuna Kharge rejected the BJP argument, said Parliament discussed the Babri mosque demolition issue and the use of Article 356 in Arunachal Pradesh though those matters were in the court.
The Congress has repeatedly accused the government of trying to grab power in opposition-ruled states amid indications that the party is gearing to stall proceedings throughout the session.
If the Congress has its way, it will enforce the third such washout in 18 months and hurt the government’s reform agenda, such as the goods and services tax bill and the factories bill.
The government is about to complete two years after storming to power on a promise to unleash unprecedented economic growth but experts are worried about the slowing pace of reforms amid a crippling farm crisis and successive droughts.
The NDA has repeatedly accused the Opposition, especially the Congress, of hurting India’s economy by stalling parliamentary proceedings.
On Monday, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also backed the Congress, noting that said Jaitley said in the last session that discussion on sub-judice issues could not be prevented in the House. “Apply your own precedents,” he added.
Azad said the elected Arunachal Pradesh government was brought down during the winter session and NDA did not rest till it installed its own government there.
The dismissal of a Congress government in Arunachal last January and President’s Rule in Uttarakhand has provided fresh political fodder to the Congress and non-NDA parties amidst ongoing elections in four states.
Immediately after the Lok Sabha convened for the day, Kharge accused the BJP-led government of “murdering democracy” in the hill state and requested speaker Sumitra Mahajan to speak on the matter as he had moved an adjournment motion.
The speaker rejected his plea, prompting Kharge and his colleagues to squat in the well of the House and shout slogans. Members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Janata Dal (United) joined the Congress protests.
“The BJP observes Constitution Day and speaks highly about the ideals of Babasaheb Ambedkar, but is strangulating democracy through its actions. This shows the double speak of the ruling party,” he alleged.
He said the Centre should have awaited the outcome of the floor test scheduled in the Uttarakhand assembly on April 28.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said the crisis in Uttarakhand was an outcome of the internal differences of the Congress, while saying that the issue could not be discussed as it was “sub-judice.”