NEW DELHI: Almost no business was transacted in the Rajya Sabha, with the Opposition adamant that there should be a discussion on the situation in Gaza, while the government refused to allow it claiming it would lead to “discourteous” reference to another country.
After Question Hour, the Upper House was adjourned four times on Wednesday, before the Deputy Chairman P J Kurien realised that it would be futile to try to run the chamber with the government and Opposition strident on their respective position, throwing the rule book at each other.
During Zero Hour, the Opposition was expecting Kurien to call for the start of the discussion, which was listed in the revised list of business. He demurred, saying that the minister concerned was not present in the House.
When External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj came into the House, she immediately made it known that the government did not favour holding the discussion.
She claimed that though she was made aware that a short duration discussion on Gaza was listed for day’s business rather late, she dispatched a letter to the Chairman terming it “inadmissible” and “undesirable”.
“We have diplomatic ties with both nations. Any discourteous reference to any friendly country can impact our relations with them,” she said.
Sushma said that while the House awaited the decision of the Chairman, the Railway Budget could be taken up for discussion. Deputy Chairman Kurien concurred.
Last week, India had already made a statement on Gaza, calling upon both the Palestinians and Israel to stop the violent action and resume the peace process. It was seen in some quarters as more critical of Israel than expected from the NDA Government.
Obviously, with the Opposition expected to pillory Israel for its attacks on Gaza, the government will find it difficult to make a balancing act and preferred the discussion not to take place.
The Opposition asserted that the discussion had to be taken up immediately. “We cannot take up the Railway Budget unless the first item is disposed of,” said Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was to speak on the Rail Budget.
Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the business can’t be altered by the Chairman as it is a Constitutional power which is to be exercised by him under the rules. “That cannot be eroded at the whims of the government, otherwise it will set an unprecedented and dangerous trend,” he said.
His Congress colleague, Satyavrat Chaturvedi made a similar argument. “Only the sense of the House can alter the list of business. The Chairman has no authority to unilaterally change it,” he said.
However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu pointed out that the list of business had been changed several times, pointing out that the discussion on Rail Budget could not get under way on Tuesday due to the unwillingness of the Opposition members.