Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence in Rajya Sabha on Thursday could not lead to resumption of the debate on demonetisation as Opposition MPs demanded his apology for allegedly describing them as supporters of black money.
Modi entered the Upper House during question hour, noticing which Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad rose to reiterate the demand that the PM should be present throughout the discussion on demonetisation. But noisy exchanges followed the moment Azad brought up Modi’s comments against those opposing the decision.
Leading the attack on the Opposition, I&B Minister Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the prime minister had not said that the Opposition supported black money. “Don’t make allegations in the House. He ne’er said it,” he told Congress MPs shouting slogans. “We can shout even louder slogans than you.”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad joined in to urge chairman Hamid Ansari to resume the debate. Ansari, after consulting Naidu, agreed to start the debate and called U Singh Deo of the BJD to speak.
The JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav intervened to say he too agreed the debate should continue, but it “cannot be one-way traffic” and demanded that the PM should remain seated in the House through the discussion. Chaos erupted again as Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien supported Azad and said the Opposition was ready to debate as soon as the PM withdraws his remarks. Congress members then immediately started shouting, “Pradhan Mantri mafi maango (PM should apologise)”.
“Sir, I have requested you that we are ready for a debate. The prime minister is very much here, and as and when required, he will also intervene in the debate. In spite of this, their intention is not to allow the debate. Now, the entire country has witnessed that they don’t want a debate,” Naidu was heard shouting amidst the din. This forced the chairman to adjourn the House for 15 minutes.
Modi stayed back in the House during the 15-minute break and members from various political parties, including some from the Opposition, were seen going to his seat to chat with him. After the House reassembled, Ansari had to adjourn it again until 2 pm.
In the afternoon, Opposition MPs ignored repeated pleas from the chair that the discussion should resume given the presence of the PM.
They trooped into the well demanding his apology for his remarks. “Today they have run out of excuses, they are trapped in the web of their own cleverness. Please start the discussion. You have neither arguments nor truth… the hoarders of black money have become paupers. Should the PM apologise for trying to give the poor their rights, their rightful wealth that has been looted for generations … it is Congress who should apologise for what they did, for what kept the poor in this country in misery,” said MoS (Parliamentary Affairs) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as the treasury benches, struggling to match the lung power of the Opposition, thumped desks instead.
Deputy chairman P J Kurien kept asking for the discussion to start but his entreaties went in vain and the House had to be adjourned for the day.