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No debate, frequent adjournments: Upset Opposition drafts protest letter against Venkaiah Naidu

The list includes allegations against Naidu that he “doesn’t allow opposition parties any space for debate, favours ruling party members and adjourns the house according to his whims and fancies,” claimed an opposition leader.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2018 22:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Venkaiah Naidu,Rajya Sabha,Opposition parties
The Opposition parties have prepared a letter against Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu listing their complaints against him.(PTI file photo)

With communication between Rajya Sabha chairman and Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu and some Opposition leaders at a new low, a section of non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) parliamentarians has drafted a letter to protest against some of his actions. The members are also mulling other ways to convey their anguish.

The list of grievances mentions “no space for opposition parties for debate, favouring ruling party members and adjourning the house according to his whims and fancies,” said an opposition leader who asked not to be named. Other opposition leaders alleged that two questions on demonetisation and their answers were removed from the Rajya Sabha website.

Hindustan Times learns that the letter is currently with one of the senior-most opposition leaders, who is considering the next step. A non-Congress leader added: “Most of the opposition leaders are upset. There are different ways of expressing our objections. We may put it in writing or meet him or informally convey the message.”

A BJP member who attends the daily meeting of Rajya Sabha floor leaders with Naidu denied there was any communication breakdown between the chairman and opposition leaders. He said the problem is that the chairman takes “House matters too seriously, emotionally and even personally. A few opposition leaders even told him not to lose sleep if the House doesn’t function smoothly”.

The member, who asked not to be identified, added that when another BJP parliamentarian recently met Naidu and expressed concern over the strain he was taking, the chairman said he was deeply worried about the image of the House of elders among the public and wouldn’t mind if something happened to him if that resulted in better functioning of the Rajya Sabha.

But opposition leaders said that on Wednesday morning the usual meeting at Naidu’s chamber was disastrous. “Naidu spoke in an angry tone for a few minutes and left the room. It took others some time to grasp the intensity of the situation. Then, an opposition leader confronted junior minister for parliamentary affairs Vijay Goel and said, “Are we here to listen to a monologue? The chairman doesn’t want to hear us”,” said a political party’s floor leader, who asked not to be named.

After that incident, leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Trinamool Congress floor leader Derek O’Brien decided to stop attending any such meetings.

The opposition camp also pointed out that out of two short-duration discussions and two calling-attention notices taken up in the House, only one was moved by an opposition leader. ”Why should a ruling side member be given a chance to seek the attention of the government? This should be a space only for us,” said an opposition leader.

“This is Parliament, not a BJP party office. We urge the chairman to give more chances to the opposition. Where is the space for opposition? We will not allow Parliament to be used as a BJP back garden,” said O’Brien.

But a functionary close to the establishment who asked not to be identified rejected all charges against Naidu and said that he has always heard the concerns of the Opposition with patience even as the House has been disrupted without any basis.

“On Wednesday, the Congress created uproar and claimed in the House that Amit Shah should apologise for saying no prime minister since Rajiv Gandhi and those after him had the courage to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Naidu checked the record of verbatim proceedings of the House and saw that Shah did not make any such references to other PMs during his speech,” the functionary added.

Another Rajya Sabha functionary pointed out that a notice from Congress’s Anand Sharma for a calling attention debate had already been admitted. This person added that another debate under a notice from a Rashtriya Janata Dal leader could not happen as the Opposition disrupted the proceedings.

Refuting allegations that Rajya Sabha TV blacked out speeches of some opposition leaders earlier, a senior official of the channel said, “The chairman ordered an inquiry immediately. The allegation was found to be untrue.”

Regarding the missing questions, a government official who asked not to be identified said “respective ministries have been authorised to upload questions on RS website and RS secretariat has no hand in this.”

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 10:46 IST