Price rise up for discussion in Parliament, but may get drowned out

The Union government has listed inflation for discussion in Lok Sabha on Monday, meeting a key demand of Opposition parties that had been stalling Parliament over the matter.

But the big question is whether normalcy will return to Parliament for the discussion to take place. Some parties are now keen to attack the government over other political issues that cropped up over the weekend — the use of central agencies and alleged attempts to “topple” the Jharkhand government.

The Opposition had been demanding a discussion on price rise suspending all business. The discussion has been accepted under Rule 193 on notices given by Congress’s Manish Tewari and Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Bhaurao Raut.

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

The Congress believes the issue of Gandhi’s “heckling” is not a closed chapter. Chowdhury, on his part, Sunday wrote a fresh letter to Speaker Om Birla 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 has already expressed regret for his “mistake” and apologized to the President for his remark.

“However, I may like to point out that the manner in which Smriti Irani was taking the name of Hon’ble Madam President in the House was not proper and in consonance with the status and position of the Hon’ble President. She was yelling ‘Droupadi Murmu’ repeatedly without prefixing Hon’ble President or Madam or Smt. before the Hon’ble President’s name. This clearly amounts to degrading the stature of the office of the Hon’ble President,” he said.

Adding to that is the arrest of three Jharkhand Congress MLAs in West Bengal with a large amount of cash. The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to topple the JMM-Congress government in Jharkhand. The issue fits in well with the Congress’s oft-repeated charge that the BJP and its government was hell bent on toppling opposition governments.

The detention of Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut is another issue. The Opposition, especially the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, had been accusing the BJP government of indulging in political vendetta and misuse of investigative agencies. The Uddhav faction of the Shiv Sena is keen to raise the issue in Parliament Monday.

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

The Left parties, on the other hand, are said to be keen on a discussion on price rise. Sources said the Opposition could have different strategies for the two Houses. “We could raise all these issues in Rajya Sabha and let Lok Sabha function to allow a discussion on price rise. But a final floor strategy will be decided in the morning after all opposition parties meet,” one Opposition MP said.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, said “obstruction (of proceedings) is destruction of parliamentary democracy. Effective functioning of the Parliament is the collective responsibility of the Government and the opposition. The world is looking at India which is on the move. Political differences should not be allowed to affect the functioning of the House”.

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