Rajya Sabha adjourned over Modi’s absence during debate (Third Lead)

New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) The Rajya Sabha was on Thursday adjourned for the day after a spate of adjournments as the opposition continued to create ruckus over demonetisation issue and demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi sit through the debate on it.

As the house re-assembled post-lunch at 2 p.m., the opposition demanded Modi’s continued presence. Modi had come to the house at 12 noon and sat for an hour — after five days’ parliamentary business was washed out by protests over his absence. However, he did not return after the lunch break.

Although Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the house that the Prime Minister will participate in the debate on demonetisation, the opposition was not convinced and kept protesting.

Amidst din, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien adjourned the house until 3 p.m. but the situation was no better at 3 p.m. and the house was ultimately adjourned for the day.

Soon after the house met for the day’s business at 11 a.m., Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad told the Chair that former Prime Minister and Congress member Manmohan Singh wanted to speak on demonetisation issue.

Kurien, who was presiding, promptly allowed Singh to speak.

But Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley objected to Singh’s speaking on the issue, saying a debate on the issue was on and nobody can speak while “holding up the debate”.

“There is a debate in continuation. The honourable former Prime Minister is entitled to participate in debate. But you can’t say I’ll hold up the debate and give the opposition a special opportunity to speak. That is something totally unacceptable.”

“You can’t devise a new procedure,” he said, adding that if there is no debate, nobody from the opposition will be allowed to speak.

Kurien reminded him that it was Zero Hour but Jaitley said that it was not being conducted “in the normal manner of a Zero Hour”.

“If it is on the issue of demonetisation or currency issue, the opposition should start the debate. Let Manmohan Singh speak in the debate. We’ll answer him,” he added.

The opposition members protested noisily against the government’s position and amid pandemonium, the house was adjourned till noon.

To the opposition’s surprise, Prime Minister Modi arrived in the house at 12 noon and members welcomed him with applause.

The house functioned normally for the next one hour as the Prime Minister sat and patiently heard the opposition members, including Manmohan Singh and Naresh Agrawal of the Samajwadi Party.

As soon as the house met after the lunch break, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, who was speaking when the house was adjourned, said she had requested Modi to sit through the debate in the post-lunch sitting as well.

“The entire opposition requested the Prime Minister to sit through the debate. It is sad that he is not in the house after lunch,” she said.

The BSP chief was supported by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury and Azad.

“We had said that if the Prime Minister is here for the debate, the house will run, otherwise it will not run,” Azad said.

Kurien, however, countered him by asking how was it possible for the Prime Minister to be present all the time.

Hitting out at opposition, Jaitley said: “I had this doubt and now it is confirmed that the opposition is trying to run away from debate and trying to find reasons for it… Continue the debate, Modi will participate as per the tradition. There is no tradition that the Prime Minister will sit through the whole debate.”

Azad, however, said that during the debate on 2G scam, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sat through the whole debate on the opposition’s insistence.

As opposition members created a ruckus, the house was adjourned till 3 p.m.

As the house was reconvened, the opposition persisted with its demand for Modi’s presence and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into what the members called was a selective leak of the demonetisation decision. Minutes later, the Chair adjourned the house for the day.