Action packed day in Rajya Sabha; Bajwa invites Chair’s ire

New Delhi, March 21

A day after an inert Rajya Sabha and its missing Union ministers and members invited scathing remarks from Chairman Hamid Ansari and today also a word of caution from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the House witnessed much action with Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa inviting reprimand by Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien in the Zero Hour.

 

BSP leader Mayawati, who party faced a rout in the UP elections, had to be told firmly by Kurien to stop as she continued making her point on the need of a law to scrap the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections. Adding to the action was expelled BJP MP Ram Jethmalani, whose “unparliamentary remarks” against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s reply in the Question Hour on the black money stashed abroad, had to be expunged immediately by Ansari.  The nature of Jethmalani’s remarks against Jaitley saw uproarious protests from not just the BJP members on the Treasury Benches but also Union ministers sitting alongside. “Ministers can’t protest”, observed Ansari but without much effect on protesters. “You must expel all of them if you want the House to function,” Jethmalani told the Chairman. Ansari called it an “interesting suggestion” but one that could not be implemented.  Meanwhile, the reason why Bajwa faced Kurien’s ire was his repeated interference in BJP member Shwait Malik submission in the Zero Hour on poor upkeep of historic Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Malik while trying to highlight the poor upkeep of the Jallianwala Bagh that on Baisakhi day in 1919 witnessed one of the worst pre-independence massacres at the hands of British forces also wanted an investigation into funds allocated to the Trust for management of the site. Bajwa blamed the BJP, which in alliance with Akali Dal was in power in Punjab for 10 years and in power at the Centre for past three years, for the situation there. The Congress member also reminded Malik that he served as the mayor of Amritsar. But as Bajwa kept insisting on making a submission on the issue even after Kurien moving on to the next item listed for the Zero Hour came the severe reprimand from the Chair: “You are not obeying me. I cannot listen to you….There is some rule, some decorum (to be maintained)  “Mr Bajwa is misbehaving. It is unbecoming of a member. You sit down. Mr Bajwa sit down,” an angry Kurien said as the Congress leader, whose party is now holding power in Punjab, kept on making his point.  Kurien ordered that nothing other than what the next speaker, Jharna Das Baidya of the CPM, was saying should go on record. “I am not denying opportunity to anybody. But this is not the way… this is uncultured behaviour. I am sorry to use that word,” he said, after which Bajwa took his seat. Malik had highlighted lack of cleanliness and upkeep of the Jallianwala Bagh, as also discontinuation of a light and sound show and featuring of documentary started when A K Antony was the Defence Minister in 2009. Meanwhile, BSP leader Mayawati dared BJP to hold assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh using paper ballots if it was confident of the people’s mandate. The results, she said, were “not a verdict of people but a verdict of EVMs”. “If your conscience is so clear, why not call for elections (again) using paper ballot,” she said amid slogan shouting by Treasury Benches to counter her. As she demanded that a law be brought in the ongoing budget session of the Parliament to scrap the use of EVMs in elections, Kurien pointed he was not allowing the notice as a short duration discussion on electoral reforms is scheduled tomorrow and the points could be raise then. However, Mayawati persisted, taking to her seat only after Kurien insisted on not allowing her notice. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dismissed Mayawati’s allegations, calling EVMs “technology perfect”. Will Jaitley fall ill tomorrow, asks Jairam Ramesh  Will FM Arun Jaitley fall ill tomorrow, posed senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in Rajya Sabha after a discussion on biometric identification Aadhaar, listed for Wednesday, was put off. Ramesh said members, two days back, got an official notice from the Rajya Sabha secretariat that a discussion was listed on Aadhaar on Wednesday. However, this morning another notice came saying the discussion has been postponed. Ramesh said when he inquired the reasons for postponement, “I was informed that the Finance Minister is unwell” and will not be available to reply to the discussion tomorrow. “Will he be unwell tomorrow,” Ramesh wondered much to the amusement of the members. Jaitley, who had yesterday taken ill and not attended Parliament, did not respond.

Arch rivals CPM and TMC exchanged angry words in the Rajya Sabha over alleged strip searching of female student leaders in West Bengal.

Governor’s role

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s substantive motion on the conduct of Goa Governor is under serious consideration of the Chair, the Rajya Sabha was also informed.

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