NEW DELHI: With rising food prices and the quantum hike in rail fare serving as a catalyst for Opposition unity, the Budget Session of Parliament began on a stormy note on Monday. If slogan-shouting Opposition members from Congress, TMC, SP, Left, RJD and AAP crowded the Well, forcing several adjournments in the Lower House, in Rajya Sabha, Opposition parties staged a walkout in rejection of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s defence that people were paying through the nose due the previous UPA government’s “mishandling of the economy”.
Though cornered, the government could take comfort from the slight crack in Opposition ranks. Congress ally, NCP, former ally DMK and friend-turned-foe Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), refused to be party to the grand walkout that Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad staged in the Upper House. NCP chief Sharad Pawar not only broke ranks to ask a clarification on sugar prices, he was seen signaling his party MP D P Tripathi to stay back when the latter rose to walk out with other Opposition members. The DMK also stayed put. Kanimozhi was seen coordinating with Pawar on the issue.
The TRS too had it own agenda with Keshav Rao complaining that he was not allowed to speak, but he too did not leave the House. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury similarly made it a point to underline that the party was walking out because “the government was refusing to announce a ban on future trading’’ and not because of the reason cited by Azad. But it was NCP’s volte-face that embarrassed Congress the most. “May be there was some lacuna in our floor coordination,” Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma later admitted.
The glitch was visible in Lok Sabha as well. While Congress members slammed the 45-day-old government on prices, NCP chief’s daughter Supriya Sule participated in the Question Hour. Unlike the Upper House where a debate took place, the Opposition did not let the Lower House function as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan refused to allow an adjournment motion with voting on price rise. The Speaker said she was ready to permit a discussion under Rule 193. As the din continued, Mahajan adjourned the House.
An exasperated Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu later said outside Parliament that the Opposition leaders cannot hold a month-old government responsible for price rise.