NEW DELHI: The first working day of the budget session in Rajya Sabha started on a stormy note as the House faced repeated adjournments over the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula, with slogan-shouting BSP members led by Mayawati trooping into the Well several times seeking resignation of some Union Ministers.
An exasperated Chairman Hamid Ansari remarked that disruption of Question Hour was "violation of privilege of individual members" and asked the agitating members "not to trample" over the privilege of their colleagues.
Amid sloganeering by BSP, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said the opposition was using a "dead child" (Rohith) as "apolitical tool and strategy" and asked the opposition to start discussion on the issue "right now".
BSP members forced five adjournments in the pre-lunch session raising slogans that the "anti-Dalit, anti-Ambedkar" government will not be allowed to run, even as party chief Mayawati dubbed the incident an "insult to 25 crore Dalits" in the country.
She also wanted the government's response over her demand for the resignation of two union ministers allegedly linked to the suicide.
A visibly upset Ansari, who went the extra mile to hold an all-party meeting days before start of the session to ensure smooth functioning, said, "Disruption of House is the violation of the privilege of individual members of the House. Do not trample the privilege your colleagues." Members from treasury benches welcomed Ansari's remarks.
The Chairman asked Mayawati to follow procedures, arguing that her party members can raise the issue any other time during the day. He also held an informal meeting with leaders of parties in his chamber after the House was adjourned for the third time.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said if Question Hour was not being allowed, the legislative business should be taken up as otherwise it will not send a right message. He said a response can be given only if a thorough debate is allowed in which everybody gets a chance to participate.
As eight of the BSP members continued shouting slogans from the Well of the House, an apparently irked Ansari said, "you had enough. Please sit down. Take care of your health." However, his pleas remained unheeded. Raising the issue, Mayawati (BSP) said the suicide by the Vemula, a Dalit student of the Hyderabad University, was a matter of grave concern.
A number of Union Ministers like Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman, Prakash Javadekar, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi among others were present in the House. Rajnath Singh later left the House amid the din.
The row in the Upper House began virtually from the start. Even though a discussion on the issue was listed for today, Mayawati (BSP) wanted a response from the government to her demand for resignation of the union ministers allegedly linked to the suicide, sacking of the Vice Chancellor of University of Hyderabad and inclusion of a Dalit member in the judicial committee probing the suicide.
"Since the time, BJP came to power at the Centre, nefarious means are being used to impose RSS ideology," she said adding that prestigious institutions like Hyderabad University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were being interfered with.
Suicide by Rohith is not the first case and many Dalit students have committed suicide in the past including when Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre, she claimed.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said if the House agreed, a debate on the issue could be taken up immediately. Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien too agreed that a discussion can be taken up immediately if the House agrees.
But Mayawati insisted on a response to her demands first, even as Naqvi said "We are not running away from debate." Kurien said the subject raised by Mayawati was already in the list of business and could be taken up now and the government will reply to it.
But BSP members remained unrelenting, forcing Kurien to adjourn the House first for 10 minutes.
After the brief adjournment when the House reassembled, Mayawati again wanted to know from the government if there would be a Dalit member in the inquiry committee.
To this, Deputy Chairman Kurien said "don't take the House to ransom". As BSP members trooped in to the Well, Naqvi said a discussion would take place on the issue and the government cannot reply to questions in bits and pieces.
"After the debate the Minister will intervene and reply. (It is) not possible to answer each member," he said.
As BSP members kept shouting anti-government slogans, Naqvi said "(this is) is a frustrated agenda".
While CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Mayawati has raised a simple question and the government should reply to it, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party too demands inclusion of a dalit member in the probe panel. Amid continued sloganeering by BSP, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said the discussion on the issue should begin "right now".
As the Minister was speaking, Mayawati too joined her party colleagues in the Well. Kurien then adjourned the House till noon.
Similar scenes were witnessed when the House again met in the noon and Ansari tried to take up Question Hour.
However as BSP members remained unrelenting even after his angry remarks, he adjourned the House for ten minutes.
During the short break, Ansari met leaders including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, JD-U's K C Tyagi, SP's Ramgopal Yadav and CPI's D Raja in an apparent bid to restore normalcy.
However, as the row continued as the House reassembled, Ansari adjourned the House twice more for 15 minutes and then till 2 PM.