Upset at not being allowed to raise their concerns around the Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress lawmakers have decided to turn down a breakfast invite from Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for Friday morning. A senior Congress leader told NDTV that the decision to stay away from the breakfast meet was taken to signal the anguish of the party, the largest opposition party, to the presiding officer at what they allege, is his partisan role in conducting the house.
The immediate trigger was Mr Naidu's refusal to first decline permission to leaders from the Congress and others to raise their demand for a parliamentary probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal, switching off their microphones and hurriedly push through two bills despite their protests.
One bill provides for setting up a National Sports Authority in Manipur. The second relates to carry out changes to the Homoeopathy Central Council.
Congress leaders say they had cooperated with the government to pass the law restoring the powers of the police to make arrests on complaints received under the Dalit atrocities law.
But when the Congress tried to raise their concerns after the passage of the law to undo a Supreme Court, a senior party leader said, the Rajya Sabha chairman disallowed them and ordered that nothing that the Congress-led opposition was saying would go on record.
Mr Naidu is hosting the breakfast at 9.30 am for his new deputy, Harivansh, a first-timer lawmaker from Janata Dal United.
A Congress leader said skipping from the breakfast meet appeared to be the appropriate response, particularly considering how the Rajya Sabha chairman too had used such events to drive home similar points.
It was a reference to Mr Naidu's last-minute decision to call off an elaborate dinner that he had planned back in March this year. He had then made it a point to tell lawmakers that he was cancelling the event because they had been disrupting proceedings during the budget session.
This isn't the first time that the opposition lawmakers have complained about the way the Rajya Sabha is conducted. Last week, they had also proposed to send a formal letter to Mr Naidu to register their complaint. Opposition leaders later decided to freeze this plan for the ongoing session that concludes on Friday.