NEW DELHI: The Congress on Friday tried to clear the air over its protests in both Houses of Parliament, claiming ‘they had nothing to do with the National Herald case’, and accused the Modi government of creating a ‘wrong perception’ against it. The ‘clarification’ came even as the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for fourth day in a row and the Lok Sabha too saw a walkout by the Congress over alleged offensive remarks by a BJP MP.
With the fate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill hanging in balance, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reportedly discussed the legislation with Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma. The Congress leaders later said they were waiting for a final proposal from the government on the issue. “We want the government to talk to all parties about the changes in the bill. We will also express our views then. We want the GST bill, the government has to respond with a proposal,” Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, said.
The party is likely to hold a meeting of its senior leaders on Sunday, where GST and protests in Parliament will be discussed. “We will discuss our strategy in the meeting, and then, take a call. We made it clear in the Rajya Sabha today that our protests were not on National Herald case,” a senior Congress Rajya Sabha MP told Express. But with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi directed to appear before a court, hearing the National Herald case, on Dec 19, government sources were not hopeful of passage of GST Bill in the current session.
Earlier, after forcing several adjournments, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “From the government side, it has been presented that the Congress is not allowing Parliament to function due to the National Herald case. Stalling of Parliament is not related to the National Herald case in court. This is the impression created. I have clarified earlier.”
Azad claimed the proceedings were stalled for two days due to the ‘dog’ remarks made by Union Minister Gen VK Singh. Reacting to his clarification, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the best way to dispel this perception was to attend the House. Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha PJ Kurian also said he was adjourning the House on a positive note, hoping it would function normally from Monday.
The Congress continued its protests in the Lok Sabha against alleged “defamatory” comments made by BJP MP Virendra Singh and staged a walkout, along with the Trinamool Congress, RJD and JD(U), after their demand for an apology drew no assurance from the Speaker, the government or him.
The breakthrough in the current logjam may again be provided by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Sources indicate Congress may suspend disruptions for a while and may allow her to make a statement on Monday on the recent India-Pakistan talks — if the Opposition is in turn allowed to seek clarifications from her. Sources said the government side had accepted this demand.
Talking to Express, on the sidelines of President Pranab Mukherjee’s birthday celebration, Swaraj said, “I was ready to make a statement yesterday and also today, but they did not allow. Now it has been scheduled on 14th. I’ve agreed to give whatever clarification they seek, let’s see (if) they allow me to speak. I’m hopeful.”
Meanwhile, asked for her reaction on the PM’s quip that democracy cannot run on the whims and fancies of individuals Sonia retorted: “Let him say what he wants.”
Despite the ruckus in both houses of parliament, ministers on friday tabled answers to queries on doordarshan, cancer incidence and number of armymen who have died in siachen
New DTH channels
A total of 64 channels can be added in Doordarshan’s free-to-air Direct-to-Home service ‘DD Free Dish’. “There are 64 TV channels and steps have been taken to add 48 new channels,” Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore told the Lok Sabha.
cancer on rise
India witnessed a huge rise in cancer cases due to an ageing population, unhealthy lifestyle and tobacco use, Health Minister J P Nadda said in the Lok Sabha. “...breast cancer is increasing in both urban and rural registries whereas cervical cancer is decreasing ...,” he said, citing an ICMR report.
fishermen in pak
A total of 303 Indian fishermen have been apprehended by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency. However, no Pakistani fisherman has been apprehended by Indian security agencies this year, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said in the Lok Sabha.
A total of 869 Indian soldiers have died in Siachen since 1984 due to climatic conditions, environmental and other factors, the Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said, in a written reply, to the Lok Sabha. The total number of officers who have died there since 1984 is 33.