Early end to House session: Venkaiah Naidu breaks down, Om Birla expresses anguish

Both Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed anguish Wednesday over the washout, with Naidu briefly breaking down in the House.

all party meet
PM Modi, Shah, Sonia Gandhi and others with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo source: ANI)

The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die Wednesday two days before schedule, marking an end to the Monsoon Session, which was continuously disrupted by Opposition protests over the Pegasus snooping row, farm laws and other issues. Both Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed anguish Wednesday over the washout, with Naidu briefly breaking down in the House.

Naidu’s outburst was over Tuesday’s incidents, which he called “sacrilege” and a new “low” for the country’s “temple of democracy”. During a discussion on farmers’ issues Tuesday, Opposition members had climbed atop a table, and thrown an official file at the Chair. Some MPs were also seen squatting on the tables of the front-row seats, forcing multiple adjournments of the House. As Rajya Sabha TV did not telecast the protest, several Opposition MPs recorded the events and posted them on Twitter.

Naidu said such scenes had inflicted “incalculable damage (on) the dignity and stature” of the House. “I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts… I spent a sleepless night… last night,” he said, his voice quivering. After a pause, he continued, “I struggle to find the reason or provocation for this august House to hit such a low yesterday.”

In separate remarks, Union minister Anurag Thakur Wednesday likened the behaviour of Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa, among the MPs who climbed atop a table in the Rajya Sabha, to the January 26 vandalism at the Red Fort. “If someone takes pride in resorting to such an act, I feel that the shameful incidents of January 26 are being repeated,” Thakur said.

The Opposition could have used Tuesday’s discussion as an opportunity to place on record their positions on all issues relating to farmers, Naidu said. “I find it difficult to understand as to how the way the subject was listed in the List of Business… would have prevented any member to raise any issue concerning the farm sector including the three farm Bills… the sole intention seems to (have been) to not allow the House to function.”

The protests had erupted after Congress MP Jairam Ramesh had objected to the “unilateral” conversion of his notice for calling attention motion into a short duration discussion. He said the Chair could not convert his notice on the “three black farm laws” into a short duration discussion without taking “the sense of the House”, and protested its “dilution” to a general discussion on “agricultural problems and solutions”.

Naidu’s remarks on Wednesday provoked strong reactions from MPs, with the TMC’s Derek O’Brien noting that the two Houses had collectively passed 35 Bills in the Monsoon Session. The Rajya Sabha again dissolved into confusion at this time, with MPs trooping into the Well and shouting slogans.

Speaker Om Birla said he was disappointed by the “poor productivity” of the Lok Sabha. “I tried my best to run the House smoothly and give equal opportunity to all members but the House productivity was very poor… unlike the previous sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha,” he told reporters after the House was adjourned sine die. “I share the people’s pain in their issues not being discussed.”

Birla suggested a meeting of all parties to “review the existing parliamentary rules”, and said a committee of presiding officers had been constituted and have finalised a report. “The next meeting of the presiding officers will consider its recommendations,” he said, adding that almost all the presiding officers had expressed their concern over actions like carrying of placards into the House and MPs trooping in the Well and shouting slogans.
On possible action to check the unruly behaviour of members, Birla said it is not necessary that such action would yield the desired result, but added that he will call a meeting of leaders from all parties to discuss “stringent action against habitual offenders”.

After the sine die adjournment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and floor leaders of various other parties met the Speaker in his chamber over tea.

The Lok Sabha functioned only 21 hours 14 minutes during the Monsoon Session against the stipulated time of 96 hours. “The productivity was just 22%,” the Speaker said. However, the House passed 20 Bills and introduced 13.
The only debate was over the amendment to restore states’ powers to decide their OBC lists, which was passed by both Houses. Other legislation were cleared without any discussion. In contrast, the Budget Session had seen Lok Sabha productivity at 114%, as per a PTI report.

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First published on: 12-08-2021 at 08:17 IST