Wednesday December 12, 2018
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Ruckus in Rajya Sabha over National Herald case

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New Delhi: The National Herald case stalled the Rajya Sabha for the second day on Wednesday, with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad blaming the government for misusing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in getting the case reopened.

“ED had shut the case. Subramanian Swamy and the government got it reopened,” Azad said.

“We have no charges against the judiciary… It is not the fault of the court, but of this government… which changed the ED who reopened the case. So my charge is that on the direction of the government, the cases against all opposition leaders are being reopened, even if they are small cases,” he said.

Azad’s comments came just before the house was adjourned for the day around 3.15 p.m.

“Democracy is being murdered so this is the best platform to raise the issue, in the temple of democracy,” he said.

He was countered by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who said the opposition should start a discussion.

Earlier, disruptions started as soon as the house met at 11 am when Congress members stormed the chairman’s podium raising the issue of summons to party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case.

The Congress members chanted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Members of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) also protested against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on the Polavaram project, a multi-purpose dam in Andhra Pradesh whose reservoir spreads into parts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

They trooped near the chairman’s podium and held placards demanding that work on the Polavaram Dam project be stopped.

Amid the din, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the house till 11.30 a.m.

When the house reassembled, Congress and BJD members went close to the chairman’s podium and again shouted slogans.

Congress members were shouting slogans like “Modi teri tanashahi, nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi”.

Meanwhile, Naqvi said: “The Congress party is stalling the development of the country. Whistleblowers protection bill and ST/SC (prevention of atrocities) amendment bill are listed in today’s business.”

“If the Congress party feels any kind of discrimination, we are ready to discuss. They are protesting inside and outside parliament and disrupting government’s development agenda,” he said.

Azad demanded a discussion against Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh governments and questioned the government’s inaction in the Vyapam case.

As the ruckus continued, Kurien adjourned the house till noon. But when the house reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed and Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the house till 12.15 p.m and then till 2.00 p.m.

The house reassembled at 2.00 p.m. but it was soon adjourned till 3 p.m. as the uproar continued. When the house finally assembled again at 3 p.m., Congress members continued creating ruckus and the house was adjourned for the day around 3.15 p.m.(IANS)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

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Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS