National Herald issue paralyses Parliament, both Houses fail to transact any business

A vociferous Congress on Tuesday forced adjournment of both Houses of Parliament.

New Delhi: The National Herald case on Tuesday had its impact on Parliament with a combative Sonia Gandhi leading members of her party and Trinamool Congress in protesting the alleged "vendetta politics", even as the government said it has nothing to do with the matter which related to judiciary.

Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha failed to transact any business as Congress members were in the Well all the time, shouting slogans against the government, leading to repeated adjournments before the final one at minutes past 3 pm.

Trouble started in both the Houses soon after they assembled for the day at 11 am. In Lok Sabha, Trinamool joined Congress in the protest against "political vendetta", with Gandhi being actively involved in directing the protests.

"Down with dictatorship... Vendetta politics won't work," the Congress members shouted under Gandhi's guidance.

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.

In Rajya Sabha, after repeated adjournments, 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 it be 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".

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."

The Congress leader said, "It is a democratic country, secular country" and should be governed by Constitution with equal law for the ruling and opposition parties.

Noting that the Chair was asking reasons for the protest, Azad said 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."

Jaitley contended that there was "misrepresentation of facts" and said "The government is ready for any discussion" as "there are serious allegations on Congress leaders."

He said such practices were done by the Congress earlier and the government wants to place the facts before Parliament and before the country.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked if the House was ready for a discussion to which the Opposition members said "No".

At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas 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 just minutes after 3 pm.

In Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the Congress members to spell out the reason for their protest when they started agitating soon after the House assembled for the day.

"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.

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 TMC had joined Congress in protest for opposition solidarity against "political vendetta".

He said the vindictiveness of the government is causing uneasiness among the Opposition. "The vindictiveness (of the government) towards the Opposition should stop... We are protesting together... We are united on this issue," he said.

Law Minister Sadananda Gowda questioned, "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."

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Gandhi seemed to have told Congress members that House should not run. He said if Gandhi is bothered by something outside the House, she is free to express it.

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