NEW DELHI: Parliament failed to transact any business today as Congress members guided by a combative Sonia Gandhi repeatedly disrupted both Houses alleging "vendetta politics", in an apparent reference to the National Herald case.
Congress members were in the Well all the time, shouting slogans against the government, even as the Chair in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha kept asking them to spell out the reason for their protest which they did not do explicitly. The government said it felt that the Congress was creating uproar over the National Herald case in which a court has summoned Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and insisted that it could not dragged into a legal battle.
Both the Houses were repeatedly adjourned before the final adjournment minutes past 3 pm as the Congress members were unrelenting on their protest. No sooner had both the Houses assembled for the day at 11 am, Congress members stormed the Well, shouting slogans against the government. In Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress joined Congress in the protest against "political vendetta".
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, while asking the protesting members to go to their seats, took up the Question Hour but adjourned after half an hour for 30 minutes due to the uproar. "I am ready to allow you to speak but I don't know what your issue is. Someone tell me what is your issue," she said.
She asked Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge to explain what his party was protesting against. But Kharge did not respond to her as Sonia Gandhi, sitting next to him, gestured him apparently not to say anything.
TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay drew Kharge's attention towards the Chair but Gandhi responded to him in gestures but nothing could not be heard in the din. While no Congress member specified the issue over which they were agitating, their vociferous protests came a day after the Delhi High Court declined to give Sonia and Rahul any relief in the National Herald case, asking them to appear before the trial court.
The court today, however, allowed their exemption pleas for the day but asked them to appear in person on December 19. "Down with dictatorship... Vendetta politics won't work," the Congress members shouted under Gandhi's guidance.
At one point, the aggressive Congress chief was seen confabulating with members of her party as well as some other parties, like Trinamool Congress and AAP. She was apparently asking TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay to raise the "dog" row surrounding minister V K Singh in connection with the killing of two Dalit children in Haryana. Bandyopadhyay, however, was non-committal, telling her that he will need to consult his party leaders.
At the same time, he told her that Trinamool had earlier in the day joined Congress in protest for opposition solidarity against "political vendetta". Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy took a dig at them, wondering what had happened in a day that shook the Congress members so much. "Nation wants to hear what their issue is. Nobody knows it. We are ready to hear. Let them go to their seats and raise it," he said but the agitating members refused to budge.
As protests continued when the House re-assembled at 12 pm, it was adjourned till 2 pm. When the Lok Sabha met at 2 pm, Congress members, under aggressive guidance of Gandhi, continued to raise slogans while Deputy Speaker Thambidurai wanted to take up discussion on drought situation in the country.
Congress members were in the Well raising slogans against the government like 'Zulm ki sarkar bandh karo' (Stop the atrocities), 'Tanashahi nahi chalegi' (dictatorship will not work). BJP members countered with slogans like 'Brashtachar ke khel mein, ma beta jayenge jail mein' (in corruption, mother and son will go to jail).
Thambidurai asked Congress members to spell out the issue over which they were protesting so that he could allow them to speak on it. Rudy said he was "surprised and shocked" over the attitude of Congress members when the House wanted to discuss the condition of farmers affected by drought. Amid the din, he said he had tried to talk to leaders of various parties to see how House could function normally but Sonia Gandhi had "obstructed" this.
While slogan-shouting was continuing, A P Jithender Reddy (TRS) and Prem Singh Chandumajhra (SAD) said they wanted a debate on drought under Rule 193 as farmers were suffering. Rudy said: "This is unfortunate for the country that Congress is not allowing discussion on an issue which concerns farmers... I think they are raising slogans for some court verdict (apparent reference to Herald case) which has happened outside this House. The court case has been going on for years, it is a judicial process". Law Minister Sadananda Gowda said it was undemocratic to stall the House.
"Whether as government, can we dictate the terms to judges? Some personal vendatta is brought inside the House. The drought discussion is in larger interest of the people of the country," Gowda said. It was a similar story in the Upper House which saw repeated adjournments over the protests by Congress members.
In the Upper House, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it is painful to see the "atmosphere of political vendetta" in the country where ruling party seems all out to make an "opposition-free India" for the last over one-and-a-half-years. "During the election campaign NDA had given the slogan of 'Congree-free India'. I thought this is just an election manifesto and once the government is formed, it will work for development and poverty alleviation. But this government not only wants 'Congress-free India', it wants 'Opposition-free India', he said.
He said what is happening to the entire opposition whether Congress, BSP, SP, RJD, JDU, DMK or AIADMK was painful, citing how raids were conducted on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on a day when he was stepping out of his house for his daughter's wedding, which was not cancelled despite this.
"What happened yesterday was no different from it as a TMC member's father who is owner of an Urdu paper was arrested," Azad said as the opposition shouted "shame-shame".
"There are two sets of law governing political parties- one for the ruling party and the other for the opposition," he said and added, "We need justice, equal justice". "It is a democratic country, secular country" and should be governed by Constitution with equal law for the ruling and oppostion parties, the LoP said.
He said the Chair was asking reasons for the disruption and the reply is that "despite a discussion on Constitution in the House a week back and dedicating ourselves to be governed by it and the principles of democracy, socialism and secularism, I find there is no change and there are two sets of law."
Rejecting Azad's allegation, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said "This government has not done any illegal action against anyone.... In case of Congress leaders, it is not the action of the government but that of the judiciary. ...Court has summoned them and not the government. Give your reply to them."
Contending that there was "misrepresentation of facts", he said, "The government is ready for any discussion...There are serious allegations on Congress leaders." Jaitley said such practices were done by the Congress earlier and the government was ready to discuss this issue immediately as it wanted to place the facts before Parliament and before the country.
Kurien asked whether the House was ready for discussion to which the Opposition members said "No". At this, Naqvi said, "let them shout slogans as it is their habit and let them shout for years." Amid the din, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.