Midnight drama

Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die without Lokpal vote

New Delhi: In a total anti-climax, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday night adjourned abruptly without passing the Lokpal Bill in the midst of uproar after government sought more time for considering enormous number of amendments.

On a day of high-drama when a constituent of the government Trinamool Congress moved amendments to the Bill and refused to withdraw them, the government which is in a minority in the Upper House, appeared to avoid a vote that it may lose.

After a brief 15 minute adjournement before midnight , when the House reconvened, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said opposition has moved 187 amendments and government needed time to consider them.

He said it was the prerogative of the government to convene the House and the Session.

Amidst noise, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the government was running away from the House because it was in a “hopeless minority”.

“A government which did not have the numbers in the House has consciously first choreagraphed a debate so that it cannot not be concluded before the 12 O’ Clock,” Jaitley said.

As uproar continued, Ansari said, “an unprecedented situation has arisen. There appears to be a desire to outshout each other. There is total impasse. The House cannot be conduted in this noise. It requires orderly proceedings. “I am afraid the Chair has no option but to reluctantly…,” Ansari said and announced the playing of national song Vande Mataram, which is usually played at the end of a Session before adjourning sine die.

After the song was played, he said “the House stands adjourned sine die.” Later, members of BJP and Left staged protest in Parliament complex for not passing Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha.

Throughout the day, there was was uncertainty over the fate of the Bill after Trinamool Congress’ stiff opposition to the provisions related to creation of Lokayukta by the Lokpal Bill.

The party, which is part of the government, had moved over 20 amendments and its main speaker in the House Sukhendu S Roy demanded deletion of all the clauses related to Lokayukta in entirety from the bill.

Roy said the party would oppose the bill in its present form.

The ruling coalition, which has less than 100 members in the 243-member House, found the going difficult when parties supporting the government from outside like BSP (18), SP (6) and RJD (4) announced their opposition to the bill and their determination to vote against the bill.

The BJP, Left parties and regional parties like BJD, JD(U) and AIADMK had already announced their opposition and intention to vote against it.

Through the day there were conspiracy theories doing the rounds in Parliament, one of which was that there would be a deliberate disruption and chaos created to enable adjournment of the House.

There was also a theory doing the rounds that the House cannot be extended beyond Thursday night because the extended period of the session was ending this night and that President’s nod was required for further extension.

Bansal did make a point while the government reiterates its commitment to the passage of the Bill, there are constitutional proprieties to be met.

“The year is coming to a close on December 31 and a new session will begin,” he said adding any session in the New Year has to begin with the President’s address. Bansal said the government would require time to formulate its views if a “lacunae free” Lokpal was to be enacted. Expressing government’s commitment to fight corruption, he said, “I assure the government will consider all amendments” and “we will come to the House”.

The adjournment came when several members, particularly Left parties, created uproar, wanting to know whether the proceedings would continue after midnight as the extension of the Winter Session was till only December 29. Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy was replying to the 11-hour debate on the crucial bill when the uproar started.

As opposition members smelt a rat in government strategy, BJP Deputy Leader S S Ahluwalia and later CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury sought to know from the Chair as to when the voting will be taken up and whether the House was being extended beyond midnight. Senior leaders from the BJP, Left and AIADMK kept on asking Chairman Hamid Ansari whether business of the House would remain in continuity at 12 when the extended time period of the Winter Session expires. “There is a long way to go for 12 O’ clock (midnight),” Ansari said at around 11:20 pm when Yechury sought to know whether the session will continue beyond midnight. Yechury interrupted Narayanasami, who was replying to the debate on Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha, and said most of the MPs wanted a clear picture on the issue as the session was to end on December 29. As members from BJP also joined the demand to seek a ruling from the Chair on the issue, Ansari parried the issue. When Ansari said there is a long way to go for 12 O’ Clock, Yechury shot back, “Narayanasami can go a long way (talking).” Ansari did not give a clear reply and in the ensuing uproar he adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes at around 11.30 pm. During the adjournment period, senior ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal were huddled, apparently discussing the strategy. When the House re-assembled 11.43 pm, Bansal said since the government has received 187 adjournments to the Bill, it needed time to study the same. It led to angry protests from the BJP, Left, AIDMK, JD (U). (PTI)

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