New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Order returned briefly to Rajya Sabha on Wednesday for the first time since March 5 as the upper house of Parliament assembled to bid farewell to its retiring members.
However, the truce lasted only for the duration of farewell speeches and the members who have been agitating for the last few weeks were again on their feet as soon as the House reassembled after the lunch break.
Interestingly, a majority of the retiring members in their short farewell speeches stressed that there should be more discussion and less disruption in the House. Some even advocated tweaking of the rules of conduct to make the House disruption-free.
The retiring members also recalled their experiences as members and fondly remembered their associations with various colleagues, cutting across party lines.
Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu appreciated the contribution of women MPs, who constitute only 11.7 per cent of the total membership, in the proceedings.
“Six of our women members are retiring this time and two of them are returning to the House. Besides, three new women members would be entering the House. It is ironical that even though the Rajya Sabha is proud that it passed the Women’s Reservation Bill way back in 2010… there is still a very low representation of women in this House,” he said.
Naidu rued that disruptions have become a part of “political tactics” and the house has often “become the theatre of protest politics”.
“In democracy, there is agreement and there is disagreement. If you agree to disagree, there is nothing wrong in it. But there is a way. Let us not further erode the quality of our polity,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that what happens in the Lok Sabha (disruptions) need not be followed in the upper house.
He said that thanks to disruptions, the retiring members missed the opportunity to contribute towards a crucial legislation like the triple talaq bill that was listed to be taken up in the current session.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad tried to justify the protests by members, saying they raise issues of public concern and not of their private concern.
Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury did rake up the “Soorpnakha” jibe made against her by the Prime Minister, saying as an old member of the upper house, she had “seen it all from Shah Bano to Shoorpanakha” as Modi looked on.
She also took a subtle jibe at Modi, citing the conduct of earlier Prime Ministers like Rajiv Gandhi, Chandrashekhar and Manmohan Singh.
“Rajiv Gandhi was so charismatic that when he sat in the House, all the galleries above (public and press galleries) used to be full.
“Chandrashekhar was the Prime Minister who would pick phone when a junior member like me called to tell him that riots were happening in my state. Those were the days when we said (the government was) by the people and for the people. I learnt from Manmohan Singh ji how silence speaks much more than the loud noise on many fronts,” she added.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, of the Congress, who is also retiring, said that earlier when MPs were angry with the government, they would walk out. Nowadays, he said, people “walk into the well” (front of the presiding officer’s podium).
“Earlier, Minister were grilled by the Mmebers. Today only slogan shouting. Sloganeering is not going to do any harm to the government…MPs are killing democracy for their politics,” he said.
Former Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal, who has joined the BJP, lamented that the media presented his words in a twisted form on several occasions merely for the sake of their TRPs. He also thanked Prime Minister Modi and BJP President Amit Shah for “accepting” him in the party despite his often saying things which he “should not have said”.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Tapan Sen said that in the last 12 years he saw two governments functioning and could now see a “pattern” in the disruptions.
“I took note of Deputy Chairman’s remarks about grilling of Ministers. But sometimes the most efficient grill fails to pierce into the sensitivity of the government.
“We should collectively try to come out of this negativity,” he said.
Sixty members from 17 states, including four nominated ones, are retiring between April and July.