The Opposition unitedly boycotted proceedings in the lower house of Parliament (Lok Sabha) today, Tuesday, September 22, over the undemocratic manner in which the farmers’ bills passed by Parliament and suspension of members in the Rajya Sabha.
When the proceedings began on the day, the Opposition raised a protest over the farmers’ bills and the happenings in Rajya Sabha. Within 15 minutes, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for an hour. As it met again around 4.15 pm, the Opposition again raised the issue followed by a response from Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar where he attacked the Congress for its alleged doublespeak.
A number of Oppisiton members from both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha today, demanding that the suspension of eight MPs be revoked. Opposition leaders met the Speaker, asking for the suspenion to be revoked. The Congress was the first to leave the Upper House, along with members of the AAP, Trinamool Congress and the Left. Hours later they walked out of the Lower House too, followed by the BSP and the TRS. Naveen Patnaik’s BJD was not part of the opposition boycott, despite which the Rajya Sabha proceeded with a debate on the third farm bill that was chaired by the Deputy Chairman. The bill was passed in the afternoon. The Lok Sabha is likely to be adjourned tomorrow.
Demanding the bills to be taken back and expressing solidarity with suspended RS members, Congress leader of the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said: “We hoped he would say something about farmers but he has resorted to white lies. Since 2014, farmers, youth and labour have suffered the worst. We wanted the MSP (Minimum Support Price) to continue, but you snatched that. You are forcing us to boycott the house, and we are going.”
All Night Dharna
The eight suspended Rajya Sabha members continued their sit-in on the lawns of the parliament complex till about 11.30 AM after spending the night there in protest. They were suspended over chaos and “unruly behaviour” in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday when two controversial farm bills were passed. The Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman is at the heart of the protests; the no-confidence motion against him was rejected yesterday by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
The Congress Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, Ranjan’s statement followed Tomar’s allegation that farmers’ agitation in various parts of the country had been organised by the Congress.
“Congress says something else in the house and something else among people. The protests are not being held by farmers but by the Congress. The reforms are going to help farmers. The productivity is going to rise, revolutionary change is going to come in the farm sector. The Congress is misleading farmers. Even during their time, MSP was not part of the Act,” Tomar said.
He also added that the Congress was rattled by the support that the Modi government was getting from farmers. “Even the Congress wanted this (reform) but because of pressure from middlemen they could not do so. Even former prime minister, Manmohan Singh, spoke about this reform. But when the BJP brought this and they saw that the farmers will now stand behind Modi ji, and they are unsettled,” Tomar said.
He said the government had announced MSP for Rabi crops even before the sowing began. He reminded how Congress did not implement the Swaminathan Committee report and the Modi government did it by increasing the MSP by 1.5 times.
“We haven’t just brought legal reforms, we have increased MSP. Then we have given out Rs 75,000 crore through PM Kisan Yojana and Rs 1 lakh crore for infrastructure funds for rural India,” he said.
Earlier Chowdhary had said, “If my neighbour’s house is on fire, my house will also burn. Our issue was to take back the farm bill. Include MSP. But the government has gone from Mandikaran to Mandiharan. Sharad Pawar is on hunger strike… Will the minister say that he will take back the bills?”
To this, Speaker Om Birla said the House had discussed the Bills for five hours and 13 minutes before passing them and so it was not right to seek their withdrawal. “Today also there are bills to be passed. Discuss everything. Everyone will get an opportunity,” Birla said.
The DMK and TMC also staged protests against the farm bills.
DMK MP TR Baalu said the Bill had not been given proper consent by Parliament. TMC’s Kalyan Bannerji said: “All over India farmers are agitating against the Bill. Today the BJP may have a brute majority, but this is wrong.”
Mr Azad, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, outlined out three demands centred on ensuring the minimum support price (MSP) is not weakened, as well as the “request” to revoke the suspension of the eight MPs: one, that government bring a bill which ensures private players don’t procure food grains below a MSP fixed by the government; two that the MSP be based on the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan committee report; three, the opposition demanded the government, or the Food Corporation of India, ensure that crops are procured from farmers at the fixed MSP.
Rajya Sabha’s Deputy Chairman, Harivansh Narayan Singh went down to the protesting, suspended MPs to serve them tea which they refused. That is when he went on a one day fast himself!
The eight suspended Rajya Sabha members include Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, Congress’s Rajeev Satav and CPM’s KK Ragesh. Rejecting the offer of revoking their suspension if they give an unconditional apology, Mr Ragesh told NDTV, “There is no question of an unconditional apology. The government must apologise to the farmers.”
Quoting former Finance Minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley, Mr Azad said in the Rajya Sabha, “In 2016, Arun Jaitley had said that any government will become illegitimate if the speaker refuses to hold voting. In today’s newspapers, there are ads of ‘one nation, one party’. For God’s sake, do not move towards of ‘one nation, one party’.” To this, Venkaiah Naidu responded, saying, “Arun Jaitley is no more. Arun Jaitley had also spoke about the ‘tyranny of the minority’. “I appeal to all members to rethink their decision of boycott and participate in the discussion,” Mr Naidu said.
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