New Delhi: Verbal skirmishes between treasury and opposition benches that forced frequent interventions by the Chair marked the proceedings in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as the opposition parties targeted the government on the Adani issue pressing for a JPC probe.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the House during the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, opposition members referred to allegations against the Adani group made by Hindenburg Research and made several insinuations, prompting Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar to repeatedly ask them to authenticate the charges by end of the day.
Dhankhar urged the members to maintain dignity and not make wild allegations unless authenticated with evidence. Members of the treasury benches also asked the opposition MPs to authenticate the charges made in the House.
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge led the charge, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the allegations against Adani, and asked why the government was “shying away” from an investigation.
Kharge also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘raj dharma’ remark made post-2002 Gujarat riots, sparking a heated exchange with BJP members who accused him of quoting the former prime minister “partly to suit their convenience”.
Leader of the House Piyush Goyal and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also opposed Kharge’s remarks made during his speech and asked him to authenticate the allegations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reply to the debate at 2 pm on Thursday.
Leaders of BRS, AAP and Shiv Sena (Thackeray) earlier walked out of the House in protest after their adjournment notices on the Adani issue were denied by the Chairman who found no merit in them.
Congress member K C Venugopal also alleged the government is running away from an investigation by a JPC on the allegations against the Adani Group as it wants to “hide something”.
Leaders from different Opposition parties demanded a JPC probe on the Hindenburg-Adani issue and many alleged that the President’s speech missed out key issues especially the “attacks” on minority Muslims, price rise and unemployment, and demanded a caste-based census.
Amid a fiery debate, Rajya Sabha on Wednesday also witnessed rare moments of collective mirth when Kharge, during his speech, praised Chairman Dhankhar’s work as a lawyer and recalled that the vice president once told him that in his early years as an advocate he used to count cash with his hands, but as his career took off he bought a ‘cash counting machine’.
“I did not say this. I think you will get a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) set on me,” Dhankhar told the Congress president as the House broke into peals of laughter over the exchange between the two veterans.
Kharge also said that Prime Minister Modi was targeting even his home constituency Kalaburagi in poll-bound Karnataka by addressing public rallies not once but twice, bringing a smile to Modi.
Leader of the House Piyush Goyal also quipped that Kharge was wearing a Louis Vuitton scarf and a JPC probe cannot be instituted on individual cases.
Amid the raillery, Kharge said the prime minister is always in election mode. “Even the parliament was in session, he went to my constituency in Kalaburghi,” he said in a lighter vein adding that PM had two meetings and he selected only his constituency for this.
The remark evoked laughter among those present including PM Modi.
Kharge raised concerns over the “growing communal divide” and alleged that Dalits were being beaten for entering temples.
Their hate is not against us but also on religion, caste and language, said Kharge asking the ruling party to stop it. He asked the prime minister why he was “sitting quietly.
“Once you give a stern glance, the people would stop spreading hate. This situation has come to this because you have kept quiet and become a ‘Mauni Baba’,” he said, prompting Dhankhar to intervene and point out that such remarks do not suit his stature.
With Chairman Dhankhar interrupting several times during the Leader of Opposition’s speech, asking him not to say anything which goes against the national spirit, Kharge lost his cool.
“I differ with your opinion. If I speak the truth, it is anti-national! I am not anti-national. I am more patriotic than anybody up here.
“I am a Bhumi Putra. I have not come from Afghanistan or Germany or other countries. I am a native of this land, I am a ‘Mool Bhartiya’ don’t try to suppress me, my feelings. You are ruling the country and you are telling that I am anti-national,” he retorted.
Countering the Opposition attack, BJP MP Surender Singh Nagar said the years 2009 to 2014 were marked with scams.
He said that people talking of corruption are those whose entire family is on bail for corruption charges.
He said under the Modi government, corruption has been weeded out and India’s prestige across the world has grown manifold times.
Venugopal said the truth will come out with a JPC probe.
“This House has the greatest tradition. That House also has the greatest tradition. Whenever this type of big scam is raised in the public domain, it is the right of the parliamentarians to ask for an inquiry from the government
“If the government does not need to hide any truth, then it should come forward for a JPC inquiry, like during the UPA rule, how many JPC inquiries we have done.. we are asking why are you running away from JPC… something is there somewhere,” he said.
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Bhupender Yadav hit out at the Congress, saying the opposition does not believe in any data put out by the government as he reeled out numbers related to employment generations, rise in internet users, vaccination, MUDRA loan, and free cooking gas connections.
The Congress does not appreciate anything on which India takes pride, he alleged.
Ajit Kumar Bhuyan (Independent), who belongs to Assam, said the people of the region had developed some hope after the prime minister told the nation that the Naga conflict was resolved but the President’s Address does not reflect any concern on the Naga conflict.
Vivek Thakur (BJP) spoke about the various development works and initiatives by the Modi government that have empowered the poor, farmers, dalits, tribals, and rural India during the last nine years.
Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Jaya Bachchan demanded that the government conduct a caste-based census so that Other Backward Community (OBC) people can avail the benefits of government welfare schemes and jobs.
Bachchan alleged that the President’s speech failed to mention what the government has achieved in improving the lives of women, sanitation workers and senior citizens.
NCP leader Fauzia Khan alleged that the ruling government was using the Enforcement Directorate to target the opposition party members, and there is no politics with principles at present as “fear and exclusion” are used as a strategy for polarisation.
Abdul Wahab (IUML) favoured the demand for JPC probe and also alleged that the President’s speech did not address the struggles of the Muslims.
Sulata Deo (BJD) talked about women’s empowerment and emphasised the need for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
Kavita Patidar (BJP), Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP), Ramchandra Jangra (BJP), Brijlal (BJP) and Rwngwra Narzary (UPPL) also participated in the debate.
TMC MP Abir Ranjan Biswas said the immediate inquiry into the “big scam” which is currently creating much furore can happen in two different ways. It could be through a JPC or a time-bound probe by a Supreme Court-monitored Committee.
“So, we demand the second, of course, if the first plan is touching the weak nerve of the government,” he said.