This Article is From Aug 12, 2021

"We Were Threatened Over Bills": 8 Union Ministers Counter Opposition

Monsoon Session 2021: Earlier Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and nearly a dozen other opposition leaders gathered to protest the abrupt end to Parliament and the alleged assault on MPs, including women

Eight Union Ministers addressed a press conference today as the government hit back

New Delhi:

The opposition must apologise for "disruptive (and) threatening behaviour" that forced Parliament to close two days early, the government said today, countering allegations "outsiders not part of Parliament security were brought in to manhandle opposition MPs, including women".

The furious response to an equally furious attack by the opposition this morning - both underscoring the hostility and anger that have marked this monsoon session - was delivered by an array of eight union ministers, each of whom took turns to lash out.

Pralhad Joshi, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, accused the opposition of "literally threatening that if (the government attempts to pass more) bill, there will be even more damage done".

"We had to take a decision to end the monsoon session early because, and I am quoting the opposition, (they were) literally threatening that if we attempt to pass other bills (after the OBC and Insurance bills) there will be even more serious damage in Parliament," he said.

Textiles Minister Piyush Goyal also took a shot, turning around the opposition's claims of its MPs being physically assaulted to say that a woman marshal in the Rajya Sabha had been injured.

"... a lady marshal was manhandled... Opposition's behaviour in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday was a new low for parliamentary democracy," he said, dismissing claims of external forces, "There were 30 marshals... 18 men, 12 women. No one from outside was brought in".


Chaotic scenes in the Rajya Sabha this week amid opposition protests over Pegasus and farm laws

Mr Goyal called for a "thorough investigation" and strict action against those found guilty of "such harmful activity". "The findings should be made public for the entire nation to see," he said.

He also responded to Mr Gandhi's statement that the opposition was not allowed to speak, pointing out discussions were held on COVID-19 and the OBC Bill.

"... when it suits them they will allow the House to function, else hold it hostage," he said.

"The people of this nation gave the government a duty...But we all have seen how the opposition has been totally disruptive in not letting Parliament function. Opposition should feel shame and come out to apologise," Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said.

Minority Affairs Minister MA Naqvi and Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav were part of the government's riposte, as were Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, junior Parliamentary Affairs Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal and junior Foreign Minister V Muraleedharan.

Earlier today Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and nearly a dozen other opposition leaders gathered to protest the abrupt end to the monsoon session and the alleged assault on MPs, including women.

"Without any provocation... outsiders, who were not part of Parliament security, were brought in to manhandle opposition leaders and members, including women MPs who were only protesting the government's conduct, highhandedness and muzzling of their voice," a joint statement said.


Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders gathered outside Parliament for a protest march

NCP chief Sharad Pawar slammed the government, saying that in over a parliamentary career spanning 55 years he had never seen his women colleagues being attacked. "It is painful. It is an attack on democracy," he said, adding that over 40 Rajya Sabha marshals had been deployed.

Mr Goyal urged the veteran leader to "introspect", and said: "Someone may have given him incorrect information. I want to put this on record... there was no external person in Parliament."

Parliament, which began July 19 and was scheduled to end on Friday, was declared closed yesterday after opposition protests forced multiple daily adjournments. The government has said the Lok Sabha functioned at only 22 per cent productivity and the Rajya Sabha at 28 per cent.

A united opposition has been unrelenting in its attacks on the government in the past weeks, raising issues like the Pegasus phone-hacking scandal, the farmers protest and the fuel price hikes.

The opposition has blamed the government for the non-functioning of Parliament, declaring that the government had failed to heed their repeated requests for detailed discussions on issues like the Pegasus scandal and the farmers' protest.

The government has slammed the opposition for deliberately stalling business; Prime Minister Modi has twice lashed out, accusing the Congress of engineering protests and insulting Parliament.