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Opposition accuses Rajya Sabha chairman of muzzling voice; Naidu says he was misunderstood

Opposition accuses Rajya Sabha chairman of muzzling voice; Naidu says he was misunderstood

New Delhi: The opposition on Tuesday accused the Rajya Sabha Chair of ignoring the "rules, regulations, procedures and traditions" by not allowing its members to raise some crucial issues and by giving long adjournments.

However, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is the ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha, defended his decision of adjourning the House for longer durations, saying the opposition members had not properly understood his concerns and intentions.

A combined opposition on Tuesday boycotted the Rajya Sabha in the post lunch sitting, complaining that their voice was being muzzled outside as well as inside Parliament.

In the morning, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien had given a notice under Rule 267 to discuss the alleged overreach of West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi who was trying to bypass the state government in administrative matters.

Naidu rejected the notice and when O'Brien persisted with the matter during the Zero Hour, adjourned the House till 2 p.m., skipping even the Question Hour held from 12 noon to 1 p.m.

A similar adjournment was done on Monday as well. Normally, the House is adjourned for a few minutes or half an hour in case of disruptions and in the meanwhile, the Chair calls members from both sides to try and mediate a settlement to ensure smooth functioning afterwards.

However, Naidu made a digression from this practice and straightaway adjourned the House for two hours.

When the House met again at 2 p.m., Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of the House being adjourned without conducting the Zero Hour and the Question Hour for the past few days, saying Parliament works according to "rules, regulations, procedures and conventions" and not "according to one's whims".

Azad was joined by other opposition leaders including Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal, O'Brien and Communist Party of India-Marxist's Tapan Sen in the protest.

As Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said that Chairman's decisions could not be questioned in the House and the aggrieved members may meet him in his chamber, Azad announced that the opposition is boycotting the House for the day and the entire opposition then walked out. Kurien then adjourned the House till 3 p.m.

Outside the House, Congress, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool, DMK, CPI-M, CPI and AAP leaders told media that an attempt was being made to stifle the opposition's voice for "last one week or so".

Azad said: "In the Zero Hour, important issues are raised. But what is happening for the last one week that when a member gives notice for speaking in Zero Hour, without hearing him/her, the House is adjourned till 2 p.m. That means the House is not being run according to rules and procedures of Parliament.

"So if we are not allowed to speak as per the rules and procedures of the House, naturally we will have to boycott and we will have to air our views in public through media. If the Chair keeps rejecting all the notices, what will we be doing in the House then?"

Asked if he is attacking the Vice President, Azad said that he is not attacking one person in particular but "any person presiding over the House who fails to conduct the House according to rules and procedures".

In the evening, Naidu put his side of the story in the House, saying "some members have perhaps not properly understood my concern and anguish over the functioning of this House" and declared his "commitment" to allow any issue to be raised by any member as per rules and that nobody should have any misgivings about it.

"On many occasions, the House gets adjourned several times between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. In this area of TV explosion, such frequent adjournments are adversely impacting the image and credibility of this House. And that is where I am concerned," he said.

"I thought it would be better to adjourn the House for a longer period instead of resorting to frequent adjournments, that too, when it becomes evident that some sections of the House were bent on not allowing smooth conduct...," he said, adding he thought it was "in the interest of the House that such unruly scenes are not witnessed by the public".

The Rajya Sabha continued to discuss the Motion of Thanks on the President's address in the absence of opposition MPs.

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