Rajnath dials Opposition over Question Hour issue
Ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament beginning September 14, the government has reached out to the opposition, explaining why it will be difficult to schedule the Question Hour in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, people familiar with the development said.
From the government , defence minister Rajnath Singh has called up several opposition leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress and Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress.
Chowdhury confirmed that Singh called him and informed him that it will not be possible to schedule the Question Hour because it would require the presence of a large number of officials in Parliament to brief ministers. Singh assured him that the government will try to accommodate the opposition’s demand for the Zero Hour to continue so that members can raise urgent matters .
During the conversations, both sides stressed the need for smooth functioning of Parliament during the monsoon session. Singh, who is known to share a good relationship with the opposition, made several calls to some of the parties to reassure them, but the opposition is adamant.
Question Hour is usually the first hour of business in the House, when members can ask questions after having given notice 10 days earlier. Zero Hour follows Question Hour and is a more informal session where members can raise questions of public importance.
Chowdhury had written a letter to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla last week, urging him not to do away with Question Hour and Zero Hour during the monsoon session.
“You will kindly appreciate the fact that raising questions in Parliament, and issues of public importance during the Zero Hour are foremost of the procedural methods available to Members to vent issues of national and public interest,” Chowdhury wrote in the letter.
“Curtailing the Question Hour and the Zero Hour by way of restricting the number of issues that could be raised and time earmarked would, therefore, not be in the interest of elected representatives,” he added.
For his part, O’Brien argued strongly in favour of the Question Hour and insisted that the officials can brief the ministers virtually.
“I will prove to them that if you don’t have private members’ bills, then you can have equal time as pre-pandemic time. Question Hour belongs to the opposition as ministers have to answer. This isn’t Parliament, this is M and S Private Limited (figure out abbreviation),” the Trinamool Congress leader said.
Azad, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and one of the 23 dissenters who wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking a complete overhaul of the party organization, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts to reach him.