Farm bills row in RS: BJP says Opposition's behaviour 'disgraceful'; RSTV feed cut, claims TMC's Derek O'Brien
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the passage of the bills 'a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture', the Congress and other Opposition parties slammed the bills as 'death warrants' of farmers, and called it a 'black day for democracy'.
Two key farm bills dubbed by the Centre as the "biggest reform in agriculture" were on Sunday passed by Rajya Sabha with a voice vote amid unruly scenes by protesting Opposition MPs who were demanding that the proposed legislation be referred to a House panel for greater scrutiny.
The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 have already been passed by Lok Sabha and will now go to President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent before they are notified as laws.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the passage of the bills "a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture", the Congress and other Opposition parties slammed the bills as "death warrants" of farmers, and called it a "black day for democracy".
Congress, BJP sling barbs
On each side of the aisle, political leaders were more than happy to point the finger at the other side.
The Congress said the bills were passed "amid complete chaos" and claimed "democracy was under attack".
Is this Democracy?
Bills are passed amidst complete chaos,
Opposition MPs are silenced,
Vote division is not done,
Rajya Sabha Procedure, hidden from the public
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 20, 2020
The BJP, for its part, said that the Opposition was "frustrated at not having enough support to defeat the bills" and were "resorting to disrupting" the proceedings in the House.
Frustrated at not having enough support to defeat #FarmBills, opposition leaders resort to disrupting proceeding in Rajya Sabha by jumping into the well, pulling down the Chairman’s mic and hurling and tearing papers.
Such shameful, unpardonable and reprehensible conduct! pic.twitter.com/LNjcfowvhG
— BJP (@BJP4India) September 20, 2020
In a press conference on the issue, Union minister Rajnath Singh condemned the "misbehaviour" towards Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh by Opposition members who were protesting his decision to carry on with the procedure of voting on and passing the bills.
He asserted that such conduct was not expected in a healthy democracy.
Other Union ministers including Prakash Javadekar, Pralhad Joshi, Piyush Goyal, Thawarchand Gehlot and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also hit out at Opposition members.
In response to Singh's comments, Congress' KC Venugopal said, "I saw the press conference by Rajnath Singh and 5 other ministers. They're justifying the Deputy Chairman's action and attitude. That was very unfortunate. We expected a decent reaction from senior ministers. They should've at least condemned the practice by Deputy Chairman.
"But they are justifying the Deputy Chairman, and the procedure. It means today's entire episode was a conspiracy built by BJP leadership. They want to suppress the voice of farmers in the House," he added.
Other Congress leaders said that the Centre had "attacked" the spirit of the Constitution.
Party MP Ahmed Patel was quoted by PTI as saying, "The legislations are not just against farmers but also against the federal structure as agriculture is a state subject and trading within the state is in the concurrent list."
States are already under the onslaught of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and there is an attempt by this government to reduce their revenues, he added.
This government has "attacked" the spirit of the Constitution as agriculture is a state subject and "the central government tried to pass these bills in the name of trading", Patel said.
"Whatever the prime minister may say and preach that today is a historic day for farmers, but today is a black day and will be written in black ink," he said.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said today is a "black day for democracy".
"No such bills have been passed, but the government claims that the bills have been passed. This is a murder of democracy," he said.
Singhvi said at least 10 people wanted division and many moved resolutions for amendments. "How did these bills get passed," he said.
"We feel that you cannot get the laws passed merely with your brute majority. These unconstitutional bills will not only be challenged but also annulled after it is challenged in the Supreme Court," Singhvi said.
Other Congress leaders also condemned the disruptions in the Rajya Sabha's proceedings on Sunday.
— Pawan Khera (@Pawankhera) September 20, 2020
What happened today in Rajya Sabha is #DeathOfDemocracy. Not Kangana's Dramas
How can you not put the Farmer bills to vote? Why was there no division?
How can a voice vote be held when not a word is heard?
What we witnessed today was murder of Democracy!
Farmers’ Bills was passed amidst ruckus, No vote Division, Opposition MPs silenced, Rajya Sabha Proceedings muted!
— Sushmita Dev (@sushmitadevinc) September 20, 2020
Meanwhile, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and TMC's Derek O'Brien were targeted by BJP leaders.
Utterly disgraceful, unparliamentary behaviour by MP @derekobrienmp
He has brought dispute to the Rajya Sabha, the august house of elders, by his rowdy behaviour.
While TMC workers on streets murder opposition workers, their leaders attempt to kill democracy at its temple!
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) September 20, 2020
O'Brien responded to the allegations saying that BJP had "tried to break the back of yet another great institution of democracy".
Yes. An Opposition MP broke a microphone in the Rajya Sabha.
Today, BJP tried to break the back of yet another great institution of our democracy #Parliament
Basic rights of MPs guaranteed by Constitution snatched. No vote allowed in RS on #farmersbill
— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 20, 2020
They cheated. They broke every rule in Parliament. It was a historic day. In the worst sense of the word. They cut RSTV feed so the country couldn't see. They censored RSTV. Don’t spread propaganda. We have evidence. But first watch this pic.twitter.com/y4Nh9Vu9DA
— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 20, 2020
Journalists, political commentators express shock
Farm Bill “passed” by the Rajya Sabha through a voice vote without even allowing division.
Deputy Chairman didn’t even look up once during voting to see show of hands. And no way he could hear the “Ayes” amidst the commotion.
This is what a rubber stamp Parliament looks like.
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) September 20, 2020
Unbelievably shocking! Derek O'Brien tells us that the govt prevented a vote in Rajya Sabha on the farmers bill since it didn't have the numbers! The last vestige of democracy is being murdered! pic.twitter.com/IiEmHWXdzj
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) September 20, 2020
— Arvind Gunasekar (@arvindgunasekar) September 20, 2020
With inputs from agencies
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