New Delhi: Absence of Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha during discussion on the Union Budget on Monday evoked sharp criticism from the Opposition which termed it as an "insult" to Parliament.
Opposition members were up on their feet soon after Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena rose to move three Appropriation Bills for consideration in the absence of Chidambaram, against whose name they were listed.
Members, especially from BJP, raised strong objection to it and questioned the Finance Minister`s absence.
Venkaiah Naidu (BJP), who was to initiate the discussion on the general budget thereafter, questioned the Finance Minister`s absence when it was to hold an important discussion on the Budget.
"This is really an insult to the House. The Minister is expected to be present," and sought to know if he has taken the Chair`s permission for his absence.
He also alleged that the government "wants to lower the dignity of the House" and strongly protested saying such action was against the Parliamentary decorum.
EMS Natchiappan, who was in the Chair, said the Chairman has already granted approval to Chidambaram for his absence during the discussion on the budget.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajiv Shukla said Chidambaram was to leave for Chennai for an important engagement and said even during NDA regime Finance Ministers have been absent during budget discussion and their deputies substituted for them.
Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said, "The Budget discussion is
going to start. It is the most important financial obligation of the Finance Minister. Where is he?"
Some other BJP members also rose to object to Chidambaram`s absence reminding the government of the tradition that when the budget discussion is on the FM should be present. Shukla said the FM had to go to Chennai and his deputy is present to represent him.
Strongly objecting to this, Naidu said, "It is a very sad commentary on the functioning of Parliament and the way the ruling government is treating Parliament."
When Tiruchi Siva (DMK) tried to speak in defence of the government asking the Chair to read out the contents of FM`s letter to the Chairman, Naidu objected, saying "Please don`t try to defend the undefendable acts of the government."
Naidu initiated the discussion on the budget with protest. He, however, appreciated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s presence in the House.