New Delhi: The uproar over reported conversions and comments by MPs from the ruling BJP continued to rock the Rajya Sabha for the third consecutive day Wednesday, forcing several adjournments.
The opposition was also upset that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a comment on the issue at a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party, but did not come to the house.
“Does the prime minister need a visa to come to this house?” asked Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called the comment “unacceptable”.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, meanwhile, said: “When the prime minister is in parliament, why not accept opposition’s demand and come to the house.”
A discussion on incidents of communal violence was listed in the house. However, opposition members refused to take it up unless the prime minister came to the house.
The upper house saw repeated adjournments, angry exchanges, and charges and counter-charges as both ruling and opposition parties blamed each other for the continuous disruptions.
Chairman M. Hamid Ansari also banished Congress member V. Hanumantha Rao from the house for the day as he trooped near his podium and raised slogans.
The protests started as soon as the house met for the day, with Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Naresh Agarwal raising a point of order.
“We read in the papers that some policy decisions were made in the parliamentary party meet of thee BJP,” Agarwal said, referring to the prime minister’s warning to party members not to cross the “Lakshman Rekha” (limits) in their statements.
“If his ministers are making some mistake, it is his responsibility to say it in the house,” said Agarwal.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, rejected the charge that any policy decision was taken.
“PM has not made any policy decision in the meet. But I have a point of order. In the name of point of order, can Naresh Agarwal every day raise a point of disorder?” said the finance minister.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari again raised a point of order, on the same issue.
“We are just telling PM your people are creating disharmony in the country. If he is accepting some ministers are crossing Lakshman Rekha… let him tell which Lakshman Rekha is being crossed,” said Tiwari.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said he wanted to raise a “point of disorder”.
“I want to know if the prime minister will come to this house so that we can have a discussion. Will the prime minister be willing to come? Instead of addressing from outside the house, come and speak in the house and be responsible to the legislators,” said Yechury.
Congress leader Anand Sharma complained that opposition members were not being allowed to speak.
“Ruling party is disrupting the house whenever opposition leaders speak,” said Sharma.
As opposition members raised the pitch demanding the prime minister’s presence, treasury benches members too added to the din.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien adjourned the house till noon.
At noon, once again opposition members refused to allow the question hour to be taken up.
Agarwal urged the chair to accept his notice to suspend the business and take up the discussion. However, Chairman M. Hamid Ansari rejected the notice as “redundant” as a discussion on communal situation in the country is already listed in the upper house.
When Agarwal insisted, an angry chairman said: “Why should all the business of the house be suspended because you want something.”
He also reprimanded members leaving their seats.
With ruckus continuing, the upper house was adjourned twice for 15 minutes during the question hour.
Even as the chairman repeatedly said a discussion is listed, opposition members asked if the prime minister would come.
“Take care of you side, let them take care of their side… Government has collective responsibility,” said Ansari.
The opposition, however, refused to relent, and the house was adjourned till 2 p.m. Similar scenes continued when the house met again, and opposition members refused to take up the debate without the prime minister being present in the house. After nearly 40 minutes which saw angry exchanges from both ruling and opposition benches, the house was adjourned for the day.
The opposition has been protesting in the wake of recent reports of conversion of Muslims to Hinduism, and also BJP parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath’ comment supporting a mass conversion programme.
Adityanath reportedly said there was nothing wrong if people re-convert to Hinduism if they were doing it willingly.
Bharatiya Janata Party sources said Modi Tuesday warned party MPs at the parliamentary board meeting against crossing the “Lakshman Rekha” (limits) by making controversial statements.