New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) A united Opposition on Tuesday stalled the Rajya Sabha, demanding the resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and others in the wake of the Lalit Modi controversy and the Vyapam scam.
As the opposition parties demanded a discussion on the controversy surrounding the former Indian Premier League chief, the government agreed and the chair permitted a motion for suspending the business of the house to take up the debate.
However, vociferous demands for the resignations of the external affairs minister as well as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Rajasthan counterpart Vasundhara Raje led to disruption of the Rajya Sabha.
The Narendra Modi government, however, made it clear that there would be no resignations.
Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Pramod Tiwari, and Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agarwal had given the notice for suspending the business of the house to take up the debate.
“The government promised transparency in its functioning. This promise has been broken. There are 14 FIRs by the Enforcement Directorate against him (Lalit Modi). Governments change, laws don’t change,” Sharma said.
The Congress leader alleged that travel documents granted to the former Indian Premier League chief in the United Kingdom to travel to Portugal to attend to his cancer-stricken wife were “used by him (Lalit Modi) for tourism”.
“Within two and a half months of coming to power, this (Modi) government asked the UK to give travel documents to Lalit Modi…,” Sharma said.
In response, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked the Opposition to begin a debate on the issue right away.
“Start the discussion, Sushma Swaraj will reply,” Jaitley said.
However, the opposition members created a ruckus, demanding the resignations of the minister and two BJP chief ministers.
Congress leader V. Hanumantha Rao was seen holding a placard, demanding that Sushma Swaraj be sacked.
Amid the ruckus, the house was adjourned till noon.
When the Rajya Sabha re-assembled, the scene was similar, forcing another adjournment till 12.30 p.m. and then till 2 p.m.
Later, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien allowed some other members to speak ahead of deciding whether to admit the motion for suspension of the house business, even as Jaitley insisted that the debate should be started straightaway.
As opposition members sought the chair’s permission to speak ahead of the debate, Jaitley took a dig at the opposition by saying: “Are we going for a discussion or are we going to give a televised opportunity to Mr Yechury?”
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury then said a probe should be ordered in the Lalit Modi case as well as Vyapam scam and all tainted ministers should demit office till the probes concludes.
“For impartiality of a probe, the person should not be in office…,” he said, adding that the yardstick was the same when corruption charges were levelled against ministers of the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal recalled the wash-out of parliament’s winnter session in 2010 over the demand for a joint parliamentary committee to look into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
“The prime minister has said there are no allegations of corruption; what is this,” Agarwal questioned, eliciting an equally aggressive response from the ruling benches who protested the remark.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said: “Lalit Modi is travelling to all the countries that are havens for black money…the minister admitted she helped him (Lalit Modi) with the travel document…why does she not resign now?”
He also referred to the Vyapam scam as “the biggest scam ever”.
Soon after the opposition members concluded speaking, Congress members trooped near the chairperson’s podium while Kurien allowed the motion and kept calling the names of Sharma, Tiwari and Agarwal – who had submitted the motion – to move it.
Amid the ruckus, as none of the leaders responded, the upper house was adjourned till 3 p.m. The disruptions continued when the house re-assembled at 3 p.m.
As opposition pressed for the resignations, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “There will be no resignations. If you want to debate the issue, we can do that”.
The Rajya Sabha was then adjourned for the day.