Pandemonium and slogan shouting against the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand marred the first day of the Lok Sabha on Monday as opposition members flayed the government for its "autocratic" decision. As soon as the obituary references were made, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge demanded adjournment of the house and suspension of Question Hour to discuss the issue. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she was disallowing his demand but he could raise the issue during zero hour.
Angry over the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, Congress created a ruckus in Parliament, accusing the Modi dispensation of toppling democratically-elected governments of opposition parties, a charge rejected by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
They massed there shouting slogans like "Stop killing democracy" and "Murder of democracy will not be accepted". When the Speaker allowed the question hour to go on, some members squatted at the spot.
Questions related to as many as five ministries including petroleum, labour, tourism and commerce were taken up.
Amid slogans like "Modi sarkar hosh mein aao" (Government must come to senses) and "Shame, shame", Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the government will soon launch a Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme aimed to providing five crore cooking gas connections to rural areas, especially in the name of women for families below poverty line.
The issue generated heat in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the opening day of the session with Congress members in both Houses storming the Well and party chief Sonia Gandhi joining them in raising slogans.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge and his party colleagues staged a dharna in the Well as their notice for adjournment motion on the issue was rejected by the Chair.
"It is a murder of democracy," Kharge said as the Lower House assembled for the day, telling Speaker Sumitra Mahajan that he has given a notice for an adjournment motion on the issue. Members of JD(U) and AAP were also in the Well along with Congress.
AAP leader Bhagwant Mann was repeatedly seen pleading with the Chair to allow Kharge to have his say.
Amid a noisy protest by the treasury benches, Kharge said the Union government is purchasing MLAs, pressurising MLAs to install a BJP government "by killing the Constitution."
The Speaker reminded Kharge that the matter is before the Supreme Court and hence he should not say anything further.
Kharge said he is referring to the action of the central government and not the ruling of Uttarakhand High Court which had revoked the President's Rule. The Supreme Court later stayed the High Court's order till 27 April.
He said the BJP-government at the Centre celebrates the Constitution Day and birthday of key architect of the document B R Ambedkar, while it has "destabilised" democratically-elected governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
"There appears to be a great hurry by the NDA to grab power in every state... don't forget there is Constitution...you could have waited for the March 28 floor test but you imposed President's Rule on March 27," he said.
Azad said for the last one year, it has been seen that efforts are being made by the ruling party to create a situation that the House does not function.
The senior Congress leader said he had never seen that a government "does things during the session or just days before the session so that Parliament does not function".
He said during winter session, the duly-elected Arunachal Pradesh government was "brought down" and the Centre did not stop till it installed its own government there. Azad said President's rule has been imposed in the past also, but never in such a "crude" way.
When he said he wanted to congratulate the judges of the Uttarakhand High Court for "having the guts to fight the Government of India", Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there should be "no commentary" on the judicial issues.
As Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi objected to the raising of the Uttrakhand issue saying the matter was sub-judice, Azad said the Centre "which disrespects the court, cannot be trusted".
"Discussion will take place," he asserted, as several Congress members carrying placards stood in the aisle.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) countered Naqvi saying Leader of the House Arun Jaitley had said in the last session that discussion on issues, even if sub-judice, cannot be prevented in the House. "Apply your own precedents," he said.
Anand Sharma (Cong) said the Centre used proclamation of President's rule to disturb an elected government. "We will discuss it. We will expose you," he said.
Subseqently, Jaitley asked Congress members to debate the issue when the proclamation comes up for discussion.
"It will come up for discussion before the House. This will House will have an oppourtunity to discuss it. Therefore, when the proclamation comes up, please discuss it.
"But today, you cannot by an alternative motion anticipate a discussion which is to take place when the proclamation comes up. You cannot discuss it at the pre-proclamation stage," Jaitley said.
However, Congress members did not relent and several of them trooped into the Well. They raised slogans like 'Modi teri taanashahi nahi chalegi' (Modi, your authoritarianism will not work) and 'Loktantra ki hatya bandh karo' (stop murdering democracy). Deputy Chairman P J Kurien then adjourned the House till noon.
When it reassembled, Congress members again raised slogans from the aisle. The House was adjourned by Chairman Hamid Ansari till 2 pm within a few minutes.
BJP also raked up the Ishrat Jahan issue in the Lok Sabha accusing a former Home Minister in the UPA of playing with national security by seeking to dub a terrorist as a martyr.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Kirit Somaiya sought to know whether an official committee which went into the disappearance of four documents in the Ishrat Jahan issue has submitted its report.
He alleged that the former Home Minister had dubbed Ishrat as a terrorist in the first affidavit but changed it in the second affidavit.
Somaiya also took the name of another Home Minister in the UPA tenure. But Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed the names to be taken in the House.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge sought to utilise the issue to have a dig at the government wondering how the issue could be allowed to be raised as the matter, like Uttarakhand President's Rule, is sub-judice.
Mahajan remarked that the BJP member has only raised a question.
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha passed a bill to amend a 91-year-old law to exclude Sahajdharis from voting in the elections to Sikh religious bodies, fulfilling a long-pending demand of the community ahead of assembly elections in Punjab next year.
The Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha more than a month after Rajya Sabha approved it.
Replying to a debate on the bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the demand for not giving voting rights to Sahejdari Sikhs was made by Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee members and officer bearers.
"The SGPC office bearers and members have often demanded that those who are not Sikhs should not be given voting rights (in the election to select elect the members of the Board and the Committees constituted under the Act). The SPGC General Assembly of 2001 also passed a resolution regarding this.
"The High Court has said that a competent legislature needs to pass the bill. Even the Rajya Sabha has passed the bill unanimously," Singh said.
The definition of Sehajdhari Sikh has no religious sanction as far as the fundamental tenets of the religion are concerned. This nomenclature was added to the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 under certain circumstances prevailing then.
With inputs from PTI and IANS