The Centre and Opposition parties are at each other’s throats again over crimes against women and the ethnic violence in Manipur. Several Opposition MPs have, for three consecutive working days now, submitted strongly-worded adjournment notices in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, while BJP MPs from Rajasthan gathered near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament House premises over allegations of growing atrocities against women in Rajasthan, and demanded immediate dismissal of the state government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. MPs from the Opposition alliance INDIA also gathered at the Gandhi statue, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on the situation in Manipur, and also suspend the N Biren Singh-led government in the state.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman said he has received 11 notices for discussion under Rule 176, and 27 under Rule 267 today. BJP MPs Sudhanshu Trivedi and Sushil Modi have given notices to raise discussion on violence during the Panchayat elections in West Bengal. The upper house has been adjourned till 2 pm amid loud protests. Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh was suspended by the Chairman for the remainder of the Monsoon Session for allegedly disrupting house proceedings.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar, who hasn’t allowed any motion under Rule 267 during his term so far, last year said motions moved under the rule “have become a known mechanism of causing disruption”. The Opposition is demanding that MPs should be allowed to speak on the issue without any time-limit, for which all other business should be suspended for the day — which Rule 267 of the house allows.
Rule 176, which the Centre is insistent on, allows for a short-duration discussion, not exceeding two-and-a-half hours, on a particular issue. It states that “any member desirous of raising discussion on a matter of urgent public importance may give notice in writing to the Secretary-General specifying clearly and precisely the matter to be raised: Provided that the notice shall be accompanied by an explanatory note stating reasons for raising discussion on the matter in question: Provided further that the notice shall be supported by the signatures of at least two other members.”
As per Rule 176, the matter can be taken up immediately, within a few hours or even the next day. The rule, however, is clear that no formal motion or voting shall be held under a short-duration discussion.
“We want debate in the House under Rule 267, but some ministers of Modi government say there will be only a short duration discussion, others says that there will only be a half an hour discussion. Rule 267 debate can go on for hours, voting can also happen, we want that,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in a tweet, adding that there should be a detailed statement by the Prime Minister first, followed by a debate in the Parliament under Rule 267.
“It is shameful that the Prime Minister is making a statement outside the House, when Parliament is in session,” he added.
It is shameful that the Prime Minister is making a statement outside the House, when Parliament is in session. It is his duty to make a comprehensive statement inside the Parliament on Manipur violence.
Therefore, we are requesting the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of… pic.twitter.com/oSvB3ZcD8u
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) July 24, 2023
Accusing the PM of indulging in “5D drama” to escape responsibility in such situations, Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh reiterated the Opposition alliance’s demand.
“INDIA’s demand is straightforward. PM should make a comptehensive (sic) statement on the horrific post-May 3 developments in Manipur, after which a discussion would take place to express our collective sense of pain, anguish and desire for reconciliation.
No 5D drama that PM does to escape responsibility in such situations: He denies, distorts, diverts, deflects and defames. Will he rise to the occasion? Manipur is waiting. The nation is watching,” he tweeted.
The 3rd day of Monsoon session of Parliament begins today. INDIA’s demand is straightforward. PM should make a comptehensive statement on the horrific post-May 3 developments in Manipur, after which a discussion would take place to express our collective sense of pain, anguish…
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 24, 2023
Union Ministers and top BJP leaders have repeatedly stressed the government is ready for a discussion on Manipur, and that it was the Opposition which was “running away” from it. However, they haven’t clearly stated if the Opposition’s specific demand for a longer discussion in the Parliament, suspending all other business for the day, is agreeable to them.
The Opposition is demanding a longer discussion on Manipur in Rajya Sabha under rule 267, while the Centre earlier said it was “keen and agreeable” only to a shorter discussion under rule 176.
Rule 267 gives a Rajya Sabha MP special power to suspend the pre-decided agenda of the House, with the approval of the Chairman.
The government’s insistence on rule 176, or shorter discussion while other legislative business is also conducted, could be seen as a firefighting strategy to not let the Manipur issue, which has caused them a lot of public embarrassment, escalate further in the Parliament.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien has said the BJP is in “reactive mode”, and doing a “copycat” demonstration to deflect from the Manipur issue.
“Sure signs that INDIA parties are doing it right.
We announced our dharna in solidarity with #Manipur a few days ago for Mon 24 July 10.30 by Gandhi statue in #Parliament
BJP in REACTIVE mode. Doing copycat at same venue, hurriedly announced this morning. Looking to deflect,” he tweeted.
Sure signs that INDIA parties are doing it right.
BJP in REACTIVE mode. Doing copycat at same venue, hurriedly announced this morning. Looking to deflect
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) July 24, 2023
Top BJP leaders had earlier said Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who visited the northeastern state once amid the raging violence, would address the Parliament on the issue. The PM broke his silence on the situation in Manipur on Thursday, after almost 80 days since the violence started, saying his heart was filled with anguish and anger over the horrific video.
Opposition leaders have said commenting on just one incident (the video) was not enough, and his remark makes false equivalence with women’s safety in Congress governed states. Mr Kharge said the Opposition alliance, INDIA, expects him to make an elaborate statement in the Parliament, “not just on one incident, but on the 80-day violence that your government in the state and the centre has presided upon, looking absolutely helpless and remorseless.”
Both houses of the Parliament have been disrupted since the start of the Monsoon Session on July 20, with loud protest by Opposition parties who are demanding a detailed discussion on the unrest in Manipur, and an official statement by PM Modi on the issue inside both houses. While the Opposition is demanding that all other business be suspended for the day to take up the Manipur issue, the government has so far agreed only to a “Short Duration Discussion”.
A huge stir over the horrific video of two women being paraded naked on a road by a group of men in Manipur had cut short proceedings in both houses of the Parliament on Thursday, the first day of the Monsoon Session, with little legislative business being conducted. The Opposition protest continued the next day, with the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha again being adjourned for the day.
Union Ministers have accused the Opposition of constantly changing their demands, and avoiding a discussion in the Parliament.
“Their (Opposition) MPs had submitted notices under rule 176 as well. The Chairman was reading them out when they jumped in saying they want a discussion only under rule 267. The Chairman explained he was just reading out notices in a sequence and would come to 267 as well, but they didn’t listen to him. Then they started demanding that the PM come to the Parliament and give a statement. They keep changing their stand,” Junior Parliamentary Affairs Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal had said on Friday, appealing to the Opposition to not indulge in politics on it as it’s a “sensitive issue”.