‘Fake Gandhis’ ordered protest in front of Gandhi statue: Par Affairs Minister

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NEW DELHI, Sept 25 (PTI): Asking the Opposition to counter the government with numbers rather than theatrics, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Friday squarely blamed the Congress and other protesting parties for the ruckus in Parliament and asked them to introspect why their MPs including Rahul Gandhi were absent during the just-concluded session.

He also alleged that those not having any faith in Gandhian principles sat in front of the Gandhi statue in protest on orders of “naqli (fake) Gandhis”, an apparent reference to the Nehru-Gandhi family, and criticised the opposition MPs who climbed the secretary general’s table and tore the rule book.

“It was a black day in the history of independent India and blot on the Opposition,” Joshi told PTI in an interview.

Rajya Sabha witnessed tumultuous scenes during the passage of two agricultural reform bills – Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 – on Sunday.

Objecting to the manner in which the farm bills were being passed, opposition members stormed the Well of the House, tore papers, climbed on tables, shouted slogans, and even threw the rule book at Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who was presiding at that time.

Eight opposition MPs were suspended by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu on Monday for “unruly behaviour”. Protesting the decision, these MPs spent the night in the lawns near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in the Parliament complex.

Joshi, however, standing on the secretary general’s table, tearing the rule book, damaging the Chair’s microphone and attacking the marshals, all these actions of these MPs called for punishment.

“It is strange that those who don’t believe in Gandhian principles, which was proved by their conduct in the House, sat on a dharna in front of his statue on the orders of fake Gandhis,” he said. Condemning opposition MPs for attacking Harivansh, Joshi said the Congress and other opposition parties are frustrated with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have lost their balance.

He also alleged that the Congress and some other opposition parties called their MPs from galleries and other chambers to gather in Rajya Sabha chamber to create a ruckus. “Our people stood quietly because we knew numbers were with us,” the minister said. Citing the attendance register of Rajya Sabha, Joshi said a large number of opposition members were absent during the discussion on the farm bills in Rajya Sabha.

“Rather than resorting to theatrics, the opposition should have countered the government with numbers,” he said, claiming that out of the total 182 members present in the House during the passage of bills, 110 were from the NDA.

“The opposition parties should introspect why a large number of their MPs, including Rahul Gandhi, were absent during the session,” he added. With the blessings of people and under the leadership of Modi ji, the BJP-led NDA will hopefully be able to pass all bills in Rajya Sabha till 2024, Joshi said.

“The opposition cannot dictate terms to us. So for sake of a healthy democracy, they should participate in the discussion and cooperate in the smooth functioning of Parliament,” he said.

The opposition parties had boycotted Parliament proceedings against alleged violation of procedures by the government while passing the farm bills.

On allegation by the opposition leaders that the government passed the bills in the din for lack of numbers, Joshi said this was “a blatant misconception” as the number of NDA MPs was more than 100 in Rajya Sabha that day, as against a maximum 75 on the opposition benches.

He said 82 out of 86 BJP MPs were present, while members from other NDA parties and some non-NDA parties who were supporting the bill also had a vast majority of their members inside the House.

“But, if you look at the Congress and the TMC, both had many MPs missing from proceedings that day…Out of 40, only 28 Congress MPs were present and 10 of them MPs had excused themselves for the entire session. TMC also had only five out of 13 MPs present, while some DMK and TRS members of Rajya Sabha were also not present,” he said.

Joshi also rejected the charge of the government trying to rush the session and said the proposal to curtail the number of days for the monsoon session and have longer hours for a day came from the opposition MPs.

“I don’t want to take names, but many opposition leaders told us that they were ready to sit for longer hours beyond the stipulated time to finish the work and were largely in favour of curtailing the session,” he said.

He also said the opposition parties were well aware of these bills and the government’s intention to get them passed during the session, as it was made clear to them during the business advisory committee meetings and in meetings with various political parties.

“We neither asked the Opposition to boycott the session nor did we ask them to leave the house… Also, it was known to everyone that these bills needed to be passed to replace the ordinances. It was widely discussed in our interactions with the Opposition and also in the business advisory committee… We did not throw any surprise at them by bringing these bills suddenly,” he said.

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