New Delhi: Vociferous protests by Opposition benches demanding the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the debate on demonetisation on Tuesday led to the stalling of pre-noon proceedings in the Rajya Sabha. Opposition Congress, Trinamool Congress and BSP members trooped into the Well of the House raising slogans demanding Modi's presence, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the proceedings till noon.
Soon after the listed papers were laid, Mayawati (BSP) said the government was adopting an adamant behaviour and the Prime Minister should come to the House and listen to the discussion on hardships caused due to ban on old 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
As Congress, SP, TMC and other opposition members joined the protests, Kurien said the discussion on the issue can be resumed immediately as the government too was ready. Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the debate is not yet complete and the Prime Minister will come and intervene.
He questioned Opposition's intentions by not debating and repeatedly stalling House. At this point, Opposition members trooped into the Well raising slogans like: "Modi sadan mein aao (Modi, come to Parliament)" and "Modi manmaani band karo (Modi, stop arbitrariness)".
Treasury benches countered them with slogans of Modi Zindabad (Hail Modi).
Kurien asked members to go back to their places and start discussion. "Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is here and it has been promised the Prime Minister will intervene," he told the protesting members who remained unrelenting.
"Actually you dont want discussion," he said. "Why are you doing this? What is the benefit (of this)," he said before adjourning the proceedings till noon. Earlier, the nearly empty treasury benches led the Opposition to create a ruckus.
As Kurien called the House to order and called for tabling of listed papers, Opposition benches protested while pointing to the empty BJP benches. Only Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Faggan Singh Kulaste were present.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad pointed to the empty benches as Kurien called ministers to lay papers. Kurien said there was enough quorum to run the House and the Chair is not concerned about presence of treasury or opposition benches.
"There are enough members to conduct the proceedings," he said. "Why are you worried about treasury benches," he asked protesting opposition members.
First Sitharaman and then Naidu explained that the members were a bit delayed because of the BJP parliamentary party meeting. "You are not bound to explain," Kurien told Naidu. "Your members have right to be present or not present as the Opposition members. That is within your right."
Soon members from the ruling party started trooping in.
There were protests again when Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was not present to lay a paper on behalf of Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel. Amid protests, Sitharaman did that on behalf of Naqvi.
Kurien said Goel had taken leave of absence and Naqvi was permitted to lay the papers on his behalf. And in absence of Naqvi, he had permitted Sitharaman to do it. Soon, Naqvi came into the House and all the listed papers were laid.
Similar scenes were witnessed when the House met at noon as Chairman Hamid Ansari's pleas for allowing the Question Hour to be taken up fell on deaf ears.
Soon after the House reassembled, Naresh Agrawal (SP) rose to raise a Point of Order, but was disallowed by the Chairman. While Agrawal said he wanted to raise a "very serious Point of Order", Ansari said, "No Point of Order during Question Hour". As the Chairman directed starting of the Question Hour, Congress and other Opposition members, who were standing in the aisles, raised slogans and rushed to the Well.
Slogans like "Pradhan Mantri House mein aao" (Prime Minister, come to the House) rent the air, which were countered by the treasury benches with "Pradhan Mantri Zindabad" (Hail Prime Minister).
While TMC members raised slogans of "Modi Sarkar Hai Hai" (Down with Modi government), Congress members raised the slogan "Modi teri tanashahi nahin chalegi" (Your dictatorship will not be allowed).
Amid the continued din in the House, the Chairman adjourned the House till 2pm.
As the House reconvened, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal raised a point of order against undermining of the Rajya Sabha.
He argued the government had brought in a Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday to amend the Income Tax Act.
He said that the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, has not been put before the Rajya Sabha and the aim was to convert it into a Money Bill after which the Rajya Sabha will be forced to pass it.
Agarwal said the government was determined to "undermine" the Upper House, a charge that was supported by other Opposition parties including the Congress.
He demanded that a committee be set up to look into issues affecting the prestige of the House.
This move was supported by the Congress leaders Rajiv Shukla and Jairam Ramesh and those from other parties who said it was a serious matter that many bills were being introduced as Money Bill by the government which undermined Rajya Sabha.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said moves to bring down the prestige of the House should not be allowed.
Giving his ruling, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said the Constitution is very clear on what is a Money Bill and what is not. He also asked Agarwal to give a proper notice for setting up of a committee.
Kurien then took up discussion on the demonetisation issue, following which the Congress and BSP leader trooped into the Well of the House demanding the presence of the prime minister.
Following continued sloganeering, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.