Conversion row disrupts Rajya Sabha for fifth day running

New Delhi


Proceedings in the Rajya Sabha were again disrupted Friday for the fifth day running as the opposition Friday continued its demand for a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of conversions.

Though the pre-lunch sitting saw disruptions, the post-lunch session however saw the appropriation bill being passed following a brief debate, as the opposition said it will not disrupt this business which is a mere formality.

Rajya Sabha does not have much role in passing money bills, which it has to return to the lower house within 14 days of its passage there.

The house of elders also saw private members business being taken up.

Raising the issue, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was not present in the house earlier as he had been busy with Jammu and Kashmir elections, said the issue is serious and no one but the prime minister can give an assurance.

Opposition MPs also demanded that Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu should apologise for blaming Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao for using inappropriate language against the prime minister. Rao, who was present in the house, has denied the charge.

"We respect the prime minister and the leader of the house, but I have listened to his speeches for six months; he sought votes for himself, not the party. I respect him, seeking votes for himself is not derogatory, I'm not casting aspersions on him, it is not anti-national or a crime. Because he has given the pain, he must give the medicine," Azad said raising the issue.

"The house is demanding that the PM must come here and respect this House. Coming to Parliament and giving assurance to his colleagues is not disrespect for the PM. If he maintains silence, it will harm the BJP," the Congress leader said.

"The conversions that are taking place, even the Americans are monitoring the situation," Azad said.

"The prime minister gets respect wherever he goes because he is representing the diverse people of India," he said, adding Modi needs to assure the nation that people and their religion are safe.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar then suggested that Azad should start the debate right away. However, opposition members once again trooped near chairman's podium.

The house was then adjourned till noon.

The scene remained similar when the house met again for question hour.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader P. Rajeeve urged Chairman M. Hamid Ansari to allow debate on conversion issue and postpone business on private members' bill.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the opposition cannot dictate who will respond to the debate.

Ansari said the rules say if members are not satisfied with the reply to a debate, then can give notice and take it further.

"If on any occasion, the house feels they are not satisfied with the reply to a debate, there are procedures to take it further. Why are we jumping? We are at the first stage," said Ansari.

As opposition members refused to relent, the house was adjourned till 2.30 p.m.

In the post-lunch session however, the opposition allowed the appropriation bill to be taken up. Following that, private member's business was taken up.

The logjam is expected to continue further as opposition leaders have said they will not stop the protests till the prime minister makes a statement.

"The prime minister should make a statement to discourage those who have made provocative statements in the recent past. He must acknowledge that BJP's allied organisations are fanning communal passion. His failure to make the statement may amount to his indirect support to those who are engaged in spreading hatred," Congress leader Pramod Tiwari told reporters in parliament complex. - IANS