Parliament opens on stormy note, Opposition adamant on resignations of Sushma, Raje, Chouhan
A combative government on Tuesday accused the Congress-led Opposition of running away from debate after they stalled Rajya Sabha demanding resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and two BJP chief ministers over Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam.
New Delhi: A combative government on Tuesday accused the Congress-led Opposition of running away from debate after they stalled Rajya Sabha demanding resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and two BJP chief ministers over Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam.
Opposition parties rejected the government offer of a statement by Swaraj, who is accused of helping Lalit Modi in getting the UK travel documents, and a debate "in any format, at any time", saying she must resign first.
Their refusal of government's offer prompted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to say they were interested in disturbance not debate.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked Congress over its demand that Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan quit, saying if discussion on state issues is allowed, then Robert Vadra's land deal and CBI's probe against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh could also be discussed.
On demand for discussion of Vyapam scam, in which Congress is targeting Chouhan and Raje's alleged help to Lalit Modi, BJP said state issues cannot be discussed in Parliament.
Jaitley, who is Leader of the Rajya Sabha, said government offered that the issue can be discussed in the House with Swaraj making a statement on it, but the opposition rejected it.
"We get a distinct and clear impression that the opposition wants disturbance for some time. They don't want a discussion. The government is publicly declaring, as we have in the House, that we are ready for a discussion in any format, at any time," he told reporters after Rajya Sabha was adjourned repeatedly over the issue.
"We offered that Sushma Swaraj could reply to the discussion. Other central ministers if necessary will also reply to the discussion and in case they want her to make a statement, we can even start with her making a statement and the discussion could be structured around her statement. We left the option to the opposition which has not been accepted by them," he said.
On the Congress demand that issues involving Raje and Chouhan be discussed, he said there had not been a single precedent in the history of Parliament when state issues were discussed. "That's the part of federal politics of India."
Prasad said Congress cannot be selective about raising state issues and added that all parties could decide by consensus to break the parliamentary tradition of not discussing state issues in Parliament.
If debate on state issues is allowed, then there could
also be discussions on scams in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh; all ruled by Congress, Prasad said.
Then issues related to Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was investigated in Bofors scam, and the help given to Warren Anderson, an accused in Bhopal gass tragedy, by then Congress government, can also be discussed, he said.
"Congress cannot make reckless allegations and throw well-settled parliamentary traditions to the wind," he said.
Attacking Congress over its "shifting stand", he said it had given notice for discussion but when the government said it was open to it, the opposition party began asking for resignation of Sushma Swaraj and other party leaders.
Asked if the Prime Minister will speak on the issue, Prasad did not rule it out, saying Modi had spoken in both the Houses on a row over Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti but noted that it had not stopped Congress from stalling proceedings.
To a question on the demand for Swaraj's resignation raised by the opposition, Jaitley said, "Let the facts come out and whether anyone is at fault or not, things will become clear."
Congress has also found support from the Left and Samajwadi Party with Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Naresh Agrawal (SP) in its demand for BJP leaders resignations.
Yechury said in the Upper House that serious allegations have come up against ministers and chief ministers. "Let there be a high-level enquiry and till the enquiry is over, let these people demit office," he said.
Attacking Jaitley, he said when he was the Leader of the Opposition during the UPA rule, an entire session was washed out in similar cases.
Jaitley had then stated that a discussion in the House was "not a substitute for impartiality of people in allegation and they should not remain in position," Yechury said, charging the BJP with not adopting the same yardstick now when they are in government. Agrawal backed him.
Prasad, however, defended BJP, saying it has sought resignations of all UPA ministers like A Raja and Pawan Bansal when FIRs were lodged or, as in the case of Ashwani Kumar, when CBI had told the Supreme Court that he had told them to change an affidavit in coal scam probe.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Congress and Communists as usual gave adjournment motion on the first day fully knowing that the House will be adjourned after the obituary of a sitting member.
"(This) reflects their eagerness to politicize every issue and derive cheap publicity. Do not want even obituary for the sitting member - what a political bankruptcy!!!" he said.