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‘Not what we wanted’ — why opposition rejected govt’s ‘debate offer’ on farmers in RS

Rajya Sabha was adjourned Tuesday as Oppn accused govt of not allowing discussions on some of the most prickly issues raised by them, including repeal of farm laws.

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha was adjourned Tuesday afternoon as the Opposition created a ruckus after the House chairman offered a debate on “agricultural problems and solutions”.

The Opposition took exception to the subject of the debate, as also the parliamentary process under which it was allowed. The Opposition said it had submitted a “calling attention” notice seeking a debate on the repeal of the Modi government’s three farm laws, but was granted a “short-duration debate” on the aforementioned subject. 

While the “calling attention” procedure requires the minister in question to make a statement on the matter raised, with a debate to be held later, the latter allows a debate no longer than 2.5 hours.

The change in classification was described by the Opposition as a government bid to test their unity.    

The Opposition also accused the government of not allowing discussions on some of the most prickly issues raised by them, including the repeal of farm laws and the Pegasus snooping row.

Chairman Venkaiah Naidu was not present in the House at the time of the ruckus and neither was Vice-Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, with BJP MP Bhubaneswar Kalita serving as presiding officer.

After the debate started, AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh climbed on to the reporters table — located in front of the chair’s seating area — and Partap Singh Bajwa hurled a folder in his direction. Sanjay Singh also showed a black cloth to the chair, and several other MPs subsequently climbed on to the table.

The treasury benches claimed the Opposition was not serious about the issue.

Amid the ruckus, the House was adjourned until Wednesday. Naidu has asked for footage of the Rajya Sabha chambers in a bid to look into the ruckus.

Earlier in the day, Naidu had asked members during Question Hour to allow the discussion in the interest of farmers. 

“I have allowed a discussion on farmers problems, it is time for members to send a message to farmers by debating on their issues. Farmers are watching you,” he said.

Kalita subsequently called MPs for a meeting on the impasse with Harivansh. But no consensus emerged from the meeting.

Also Read: Everyone agrees farm reforms are needed. Here’s how Modi govt can break political deadlock

What happened in the House

The calling attention notice was submitted in July by nine MPs, including the Congress’ Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma, and Bajwa. 

As soon as the chair read out names for the debate, the Opposition alleged that the discussion listed was not what they had sought — a claim they had also made on Twitter Monday night. They said the change was aimed at breaking Opposition unity and gaining brownie points on the farmers’ issue.

“I had submitted a calling attention notice on repeal of three farm laws, but, without taking sense of the House, the government turned it into a short-duration discussion. It’s a completely unilateral move,” said Ramesh in the Rajya Sabha, citing a 2015 chair direction that calling attention cannot be turned into a short duration discussion without taking the sense of the House.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi subsequently requested the chair to take sense of the House on this issue.

The BJD, which has supported the government on many bills, didn’t boycott the debate like the Congress but lashed out at the government, saying it was ignoring farmers’ interest and making false promises of doubling their income. 

Following the ruckus, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told reporters that “a few of the members climbed on to the [reporters’] table and one member hurled the rule book at the chair, which is highly condemnable”. 

“In a democracy, issues are resolved through debate, not misbehaviour,” he said.

Speaking to ThePrint, Bajwa accused the government of “playing politics to divide the Opposition”.

“We were demanding a discussion on the repeal of farm laws. I am continuously submitting notices for a debate on the recall of farm laws, but, yesterday (Monday) night, we got a message that our notice has been accepted to discuss problems faced by farmers. It is not the same issue,” he added. “They have changed the calling attention motion and subject, which is not as per law.”

He said the Opposition’s “clear demand is first a debate on Pegasus, then on repeal of the draconian farm laws”.

“It is like they are showing us a Hollywood picture when we are demanding a Bollywood film.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: There’s a new Rahul Gandhi, and he’s taking ‘active’ charge of building Opposition unity


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