Opposition demand for Parliament debate on Indo-China standoff denied

Opposition MPs walk out of Rajya Sabha over their demand for a discussion on India-China border situation.

Opposition MPs walk out of Rajya Sabha over their demand for a discussion on India-China border situation.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The Lok Sabha saw multiple adjournments and the Rajya Sabha witnessed bitter exchanges between the government and Opposition, followed by a walkout by Opposition parties, after their persistent demand for a debate on the Indo-China conflict on the penultimate day of the winter session of Parliament was denied.

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Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge had hosted a meeting of the Opposition leaders earlier in the day, to discuss a joint strategy to paint the government into a corner on its reluctance to debate the issue.

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Jadgeep Dhankhar rejected 12 notices under Rule 267 by the Opposition members, demanding the suspension of the day’s business in order to debate the issues suggested by them. A majority of these notices asked for a debate on the Indo-China border conflict. The Opposition members stormed into the well of the House after their notices were rejected, despite fervent pleas from Mr. Dhankhar to restore order in the House. The Chairman asked both the Leader of the House Piyush Goyal and the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Kharge to see him in his chamber on the disruption.

Retorting, Mr. Kharge said, “Sir, this is not a topic to talk about inside a room, it is for the whole world to know, the country should know. All those who have elected us should also know.”

Questioning the politics

Mr. Kharge underlined that the Opposition stands by the military and is only questioning the political decisions made by the government. “Don’t look that side for patriots, there are more patriots here,” he asserted.

Mr. Goyal hit back at the Opposition, saying that if a debate on the Indo-China issue took place, many uncomfortable truths would be revealed. He claimed that it was during the regime of Congress Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that India lost 38,000 square kilometres of land to China, while a part of Kashmir was taken by Pakistan. The Leader of the House also made a jibe at the Congress, reminding them that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation had taken more than ₹1 crore from the Chinese embassy. “They [Congress] are responsible for the problems we have inherited,” he said.

Amid the din, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman intervened to recall an earlier incident when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Kiren Rijiju wanted to discuss the China issue in the House but then-Minister Pranab Mukherjee had asked to see him in his office instead.

Walkout in RS

Agitated Opposition leaders shouted back at the treasury benches and staged a walkout, with Congress leader K.C. Venugopal announcing that the Opposition was boycotting the day’s proceedings. However, MPs from the Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were seen participating later in the day.

The Lok Sabha also saw similar harsh exchanges between the two sides. At 11 a.m., soon after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla read out the obituary references of former members, Opposition members, led by the Congress, raised the border row with China and demanded a discussion.

Mr. Birla wanted to run the Question Hour but adjourned the House until noon when Opposition MPs did not relent in their protests and slogan shouting.

Multiple adjournments

Similar scenes were witnessed when the House reconvened at noon. After the laying of papers by Ministers and members, the BJP’s Rajender Agarwal, who was presiding over the proceedings, asked members to allow the Zero Hour as Parliament was going to be adjourned sine die on Friday. He finally adjourned the House until 2 p.m. as Opposition members continued with their protests.

When the House reassembled, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya made a statement on the COVID-19 situation in the country amid the slogan shouting, after which the House was adjourned till 4 p.m.

Opposition MPs continued their protests when the House reassembled at 4 p.m. and took up matters of urgent public importance before the Hpuse was adjourned again.

At 4.30 p.m., Mr. Goyal introduced The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022 which was then referred to a Joint Committee of both the Houses of Parliament amid the protests. Following this, the House was adjourned for the day.

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