Price hike for discussion in Parliament, but risks being drowned

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The Union government listed inflation for discussion at Lok Sabha on Monday, responding to a key demand from opposition parties that had stalled parliament on the issue.

But the big question is whether normality will return to parliament for the discussion to take place. Some parties are now keen to attack the government over other political issues that arose over the weekend – the use of central agencies and alleged attempts to “overthrow” the Jharkhand government.

The opposition had demanded a discussion on the price hike suspending all business. The discussion was accepted under Rule 193 on advice given by Manish Tewari of Congress and Vinayak Bhaurao Raut of Shiv Sena.

The last two days of last week were disrupted after the BJP and members of Congress quarreled over the ‘Rashtrapatni’ remark made by Congress leader to Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury referring to President Draupadi Murmu and to the alleged heckling of Congresswoman Sonia Gandhi by the Treasury benches.

The Congress considers that the issue of Gandhi’s “heckling” is not a closed chapter. Chowdhury, for his part, wrote a new letter to President Om Birla on Sunday demanding an unconditional apology from Union Minister Smriti Irani for what he called her “disrespectful remarks…for lowering the dignity and stature of the president’s office.

Chowdhury said he had already expressed regret for his “mistake” and apologized to the president for his remark.

“However, I would like to point out that the manner in which Smriti Irani took the name of the Honorable Madam Speaker in the House was not appropriate and in keeping with the status and position of the Honorable Speaker. She was shouting ‘Draupadi Murmu ‘ repeatedly without prefixing Hon’ble President or Madam or Smt. in front of the Hon’ble President’s name. This clearly degrades the stature of the office of the Honorable President,” he said.

Added to this is the arrest of three Congress MPs from Jharkhand in West Bengal with a large sum of money. The Congress accused the BJP of trying to overthrow the JMM-Congress government in Jharkhand. The question fits well with the oft-repeated accusation by Congress that the BJP and its government were bent on overthrowing opposition governments.

Another issue is the detention of MP Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha Sanjay Raut. The opposition, particularly Congress and the Trinamool Congress, had accused the BJP government of engaging in political vendetta and misuse of investigative agencies. The Uddhav faction of the Shiv Sena is keen to raise the issue in Parliament on Monday.

It remains to be seen whether the problem will be confined to Rajya Sabha, of which Raut is a member, or extend to Lok Sabha as well. The Trinamool Congress is also preparing to corner the BJP by raising sexual harassment allegations against a Gujarat government minister in Parliament, with three of its MPs giving adjournment notices over the matter.

Left-leaning parties, on the other hand, would welcome a discussion of rising prices. Sources said the opposition may have different strategies for the two chambers. “We could raise all these issues in Rajya Sabha and let Lok Sabha run to allow a discussion on the price increase. But a final strategy will be decided in the morning after the meeting of all opposition parties,” said an opposition MP.

Rajya Sabha President, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile said that “Obstruction (of debates) is the destruction of parliamentary democracy. The proper functioning of Parliament is the collective responsibility of government and opposition. The world is watching India which is on the move. Political differences should not affect the functioning of the House”.

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