Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Congress delivers on its threats, disrupts Rajya Sabha to set tone for rest of session
NEW DELHI: The Congress came out all guns blazing on the opening day of the monsoon session of Parliament on Tuesday as it disrupted the Rajya Sabha over the multi-crore Vyapam scam and the Lalit Modi controversy, potentially hobbling the government’s reform agenda.
A combative Opposition led by the Congress forced a slew of adjournments in the Upper House, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters outside Parliament he hoped for good decisions in the 18-day session.
The stage was set for stormy days ahead as Congress leaders led by party chief Sonia Gandhi plan to sit in protest in the Parliament complex on Wednesday to demand action in corruption cases but an unfazed BJP indicated it wouldn’t give in and highlight graft charges in Opposition-ruled states instead.
T he Cong ress has been demanding the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly helping Lalit Modi get UK documents while he was being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of money laundering. It has also been pressing for Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s removal for his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scandal. “We have made our position clear that ministers facing charges have to resign. Unless the government accepts our demand, there is no question of Parliament functioning,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Former Union minister Shashi Tharoor, however, wondered whether stalling Parliament would send the wrong signal or lead to the resignation of BJP leaders but was reportedly told by Sonia that accountability had to be ensured. When contacted, Tharoor refused to comment.
The repeated disruptions could jeopardise the government’s plans of passing a raft of reform measures, including the key goods and services tax bill that aims to create a uniform market by abolishing local levies. Such legislations are crucial to Prime Minister Modi’s promise of improving ease of doing business in the country and boost investment in Asia’s third-largest economy. An allparty meeting on Monday failed to resolve the deadlock, in spite of an offer by Modi for debate on all contentious issues.
“We get a distinct and clear impression the Opposition wants disturbance for some time. They don’t want a discussion. The government is publicly declaring, as we have in the House, that we are ready for a discussion in any format, at any time,” finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters.
Trouble started within minutes of the Rajya Sabha convening on Tuesday as Opposition members trooped into the well of the House. But legislators of the BSP and Trinamool Congress didn’t appear to completely support the move. The government maintained that it was ready to discuss the Lalit Modi row but the Opposition insisted on resignations before any debate on the subject.
“The PM had assured to ensure transparency, accountability in governance and acting against those indulging in corrupt practices... Where is the probity left? You have violated the dignity,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said. The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day after obituary references.