Opposition boycotts Lok Sabha over suspended MPs, farm bills
The Opposition has boycotted the Parliament in protest of the farm bills. They on Tuesday staged a walkout of the Lok Sabha after a similar move in the Rajya Sabha. The Opposition has listed three demands, besides asking the revocation of the suspension of eight MPs. Opposition MPs will also skip the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting called by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Several Opposition parties staged a walkout of both Houses of the Parliament, seeking to revoke the suspension of eight MPs. The MPs had been suspended after high-drama unfolded in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Congress party first walked out of the Rajya Sabha, followed by members of the AAP, TMC, and the Left. Later, they walked out of the Lok Sabha.
Amid Opposition protests, the Rajya Sabha proceeded to debate over the third controversial farm bill, that was passed in the afternoon. The bill—which was passed by voice vote—seeks to remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, listed three demands: A bill to bar private players from procuring food grains below the Minimum Support Price (MSP). MSP to be fixed on the basis of the MS Swaminathan committee's report. The government, or the Food Corporation of India, should ensure crops are procured from farmers at the fixed MSP.
On Sunday, the Rajya Sabha had passed two agriculture bills: 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. Farmers have protested against the three agriculture bills. The government—which stands accused of not listening to farmers—has blamed a misinformation campaign for the protests.
Apart from listing its demands over the bills, the Opposition has demanded that the suspension of eight MPs should be revoked. Derek O'Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress (TMC); Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Sanjay Singh; Congress leaders Rajeev Satav, Ripun Bora, and Syed Nasir Hussain; and KK Ragesh and Elamaram Karim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); were suspended on Monday.
The Opposition leaders had accused Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh of helping the government rush through the bills on Sunday, without following the democratic process. Singh had dismissed calls to send the controversial bills to a select committee for review or even to extend the discussion till Monday. Despite the Opposition's calls for physical vote, the bills were passed by voice vote.
Amid a heated session on Sunday, angry Opposition members stormed into the well of the House, climbed onto the Secretary General's table, flung a rulebook at the Deputy Chairman, and pulled out mics. Marshals had to shield the Deputy Chair from the protesting members.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters, "We will consider revoking suspension only after the suspended Rajya Sabha members apologize for their behavior." Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Thawar Chand Gehlot also maintained that their suspension should not be revoked as the suspended MPs remain unrepentant. The suspended MPs—who had staged an overnight protest at the Parliament complex—have refused to apologize.
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha called its BAC meeting on Tuesday to discuss the weekly agenda of the House. TMC's O'Brien, SP's Ram Yadav, Congress's Anand Sharma, and Jairam Ramesh, and RJD's Manoj Kumar Jha will skip the 11-member meeting. The Opposition parties alleged they were informed just an hour before the meeting, while Rajya Sabha officials asserted the meeting was decided on short notice.