Ruckus over the Modi government’s demonetisation scheme stalled proceedings in both the Houses of Parliament on Thursday. A united and determined Opposition took on the government and demanded a debate and the Prime Minister’s reply on the issue.
The government rejected the Opposition’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary probe on the “selective leak” of the demonetisation scheme to and for the PM’s response to the “chaos” over demonetisation. The leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad while speaking to the media outside the House said that the number of people killed as a consequence of demonetisation was more than the number of people killed in the recent terror attacks. Similar comments made by Mr Azad in the House were expunged by deputy chairman P.K. Kurien. Information and Broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu lashed out at Mr Azad in the House describing his remark as “anti national” and demanded an “apology” from him.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and Trinamul Congress members demanded a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the problems being faced by the common man over the demonetisation move. It was TMC MP Derek O’Brien who led the charge and sought to know where the Prime Minister was when the House was discussing hardships and inconvenience being faced by the people. “Where is the person, who announced the demonetisation at 8 pm on November 8 – where is he?” Mr O’Brien asked.
All hell broke loose as members of the Treasury benches jumped to their feet to counter the Trinamul MP. Then the Congress members rushed to the Well and started shouting, “Pradhan Mantri Jawab do” adding to the pandemonium. Deputy chairman Kurien said that if the finance minister was available to reply, even that would be enough. Not wanting to be left out of the chaos, AIADMK members also trooped into the Well demanding that Karnataka release water to Tamil Nadu.
The confusion prevailed even after the House resumed as leaders of Opposition parties, including BSP chief, Mayawati and Samajwadi Party supreme Mulayam Singh Yadav and several Congress members could be seen standing on their seats. Mr Naidu, who rose to make a statement, could not be heard in the din.
There was slogan shouting against the Prime Minister and the deputy chairman expunged certain references to the Prime Minister made by some Opposition members. After a total of five brief adjournments, the deputy chairman adjourned the Rajya Sabha for the day.
Similar scenes were witnessed in the Lok Sabha where the Opposition demanded a debate on demonetisation under Rule 56, which entails voting. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said the government was willing to debate the issue under Rule 193, which does not entail voting. Demanding a discussion under Rule 56, Mr Kharge said, “We all want a discussion under the Rule 56 so that we can find out what is the stand of all parties when they vote.” Mr Kumar, however, rejected the demand saying, “We are ready to discuss (under 193), but we do not want two voices emerging from the Parliament.” When the Opposition refused to relent, the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the proceedings for the day after a 25-minute adjournment earlier.
As Lok Sabha met for the day TMC leader Sudip Bandhyopadhyay said his party wanted to move an adjournment motion. Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said his party too wanted to move a similar motion to discuss the “hardships being faced by the people, the economic disruption and the failure of the government to redress the plight of the people.” He also said another issue his party wanted to address was the “leakage” of the information on demonetisation before it came into force.
There was constant slogan shouting by the Opposition members, which included Congress, TMC, Left parties, and RJD. Nearly 21 adjournment notices were served against the government by the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed all the adjournment motions. After the first day of discussion in Rajya Sabha, the Opposition had clearly recalibrated its strategy.