New Delhi: The monsoon session of Parliament started on a disruptive note Monday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unable to introduce his government’s newly-inducted ministers to both Houses amid an uproar from the Opposition over issues such as the farm laws and fuel prices.
Convention dictates that the government introduce new ministers to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the session that follows their induction.
While the BJP-led government accused the Opposition of shattering convention by preventing the introduction of the ministers — inducted in a reshuffle earlier this month — the latter said the BJP had been guilty of doing the same during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government.
Amid Opposition sloganeering, both the Lower House and the Upper House were adjourned till 2 pm after repeated requests by the Lok Sabha speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman, respectively, failed to control the din.
Adding to the tensions was the alleged Pegasus snooping scandal that came to light Sunday.
The Parliament session began a little more than 12 hours after an international media collaboration exposed an alleged hacking attack targeting journalists, ministers, opposition leaders, and activists, among others, in India and other countries. The hacking attack was allegedly carried out via the military-grade, Israeli-origin spyware ‘Pegasus’ that is sold to governments.
CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has submitted a suspension of business notice over the revelations, while AAP MP Sanjay Singh and Manoj Jha of the RJD have sought discussions on the matter.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said: “Our national security is under threat. I will definitely raise this issue (in the House).”
In the Lok Sabha
Soon after PM Narendra Modi started introducing his newly-inducted Council of Ministers in the Lok Sabha, Opposition leaders started raising slogans.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi subsequently appealed to the members not to disrupt the proceedings, and to stay calm. “As per custom, the PM would like to introduce a new council of ministers, after which the opposition has all rights to raise issues. I appeal with folded hands to them kindly allow the introduction of ministers by the PM.”
The PM noted that the “diversity” of the reshuffled council is something that should have been celebrated by the MPs.
“I thought there would be an atmosphere of excitement in the House today because women, Dalits, Adivasis have been made ministers in large numbers… I would have been happy to introduce them… and thought this would have made everyone happy,” said the PM as the sloganeering continued.
“Those from the farming community, backward sections have been made ministers… It would have been a pleasure to introduce all the new ministers in Parliament today. All members should have welcomed them by thumping their desks.”
As the din continued, Speaker Om Birla made multiple requests to the Opposition, saying they were lowering the prestige of the House.
The PM then sought to accuse “some people” of being resistant to seeing “women, Dalits, OBCs, farmers’ sons becoming ministers”.
“And, those people are not even allowing the introduction of new ministers. And, hence new members be considered introduced in the Lok Sabha,” the PM added.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh accused the Congress of “breaking the tradition and starting an unhealthy practice”.
“The entire Lok Sabha will agree with the fact that the biggest strength of a House is its healthy tradition that emanates from following conventions in Parliament,” he said. “In my last 24 years of parliamentary life, I have not seen a single instance where the PM could not introduce his council of ministers even if it’s one minister. This is the first time that this tradition has been broken. Congress’ behaviour in Lok Sabha is sad, unfortunate, unhealthy.”
In the Rajya Sabha
A similar scene was witnessed in the Rajya Sabha.
Taking charge as leader of the house, Union minister Piyush Goyal expressed unhappiness over the Opposition’s behaviour. He said the tradition of introducing newly-appointed ministers to the House — “something that has been going on since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru” — has been broken for the first time.
Modi struck a similar note here as in the Lok Sabha. “Some people are pained at seeing that women, children of farmers, have become ministers today. They aren’t ready to allow their introduction as ministers,” he added.
The Congress, however, hit back, saying there were times when former PM Manmohan Singh was prevented from introducing his council of ministers.
“There are some friends who are saying that Congress MPs disturbed the Prime Minister from introducing the ministers. I would like to tell them that, in 2013, when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and I was also a Member of Parliament, BJP members never allowed the Honourable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to introduce his council of ministers,” said Manickam Tagore B, the Congress whip in the Lok Sabha.
Congress MP Manish Tewari took to Twitter to dismiss the BJP’s claim as “untrue”.
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) July 19, 2021
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)