United Opposition Boycotts Parliament Over Farm Bills, Lists 3 Demands

Rajya Sabha: The eight Rajya Sabha members were suspended over unprecedented chaos and "unruly behaviour" in the Rajya Sabha when two controversial farm bills were passed.

A number of opposition parties led by the Congress staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha.

Highlights

  • A number of opposition parties led by Congress walked out of both houses
  • They also requested to revoke the suspension of eight members
  • The MPs were suspended over chaos, "unruly behaviour" in Rajya Sabha
New Delhi: The opposition has boycotted parliament, walking out of the Lok Sabha hours after a similar move in the Rajya Sabha, in protest over the farm bills and till three key demands, as well as a "request" to revoke the suspension of eight members, are met. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad made the declaration today in the Upper House amid high drama for a third straight day. The suspended members continued their sit-in on the lawns of the parliament complex till about 11.30 AM after spending the night there in protest. They were suspended over chaos and "unruly behaviour" in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday when two controversial farm bills were passed. The Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman is at the heart of the protests; the no-confidence motion against him was rejected yesterday by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.

Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:

  1. A number of opposition parties led by the Congress walked out of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha today, demanding that the suspension of eight MPs be revoked. Opposition leaders met the Speaker, asking for the suspenion to be revoked. The Congress was the first to leave the Upper House, along with members of the AAP, Trinamool Congress and the Left. Hours later they walked out of the Lower House too, followed by the BSP and the TRS. Naveen Patnaik's BJD was not part of the opposition boycott, despite which the Rajya Sabha proceeded with a debate on the third farm bill that was chaired by the Deputy Chairman. The bill was passed in the afternoon. The Lok Sabha is likely to be adjourned tomorrow.

  2. Mr Azad, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, spelt out three demands centred on ensuring the minimum support price (MSP) is not weakened, as well as the "request" to revoke the suspension of the eight MPs. The first of the three demands was that government bring a bill which ensures private players don't procure food grains below a MSP fixed by the government. The second was that the MSP be based on the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan committee report. Thirdly, the opposition demanded the government, or the Food Corporation of India, ensure that crops are procured from farmers at the fixed MSP.

  3. "We will consider revoking suspension only after the suspended Rajya Sabha members apologise for their behaviour," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters. Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, Thawar Chand Gehlot, too made the same point.

  4. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh went to the protesting members with tea and served it in cups this morning on the lawns of the parliament complex. The suspended members rebuffed his "tea diplomacy", calling him "anti-farmer".

  5. Soon after, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out strongly in support of Mr Harivansh. "To personally serve tea to those who attacked and insulted him a few days ago as well as those sitting on Dharna shows that Shri Harivansh Ji has been blessed with a humble mind and a big heart. It shows his greatness. I join the people of India in congratulating Harivansh Ji," PM Modi tweeted.

  6. Snubbed after the tea gesture, the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman declared a one-day fast till tomorrow, expressing anguish over attacks by the opposition in parliament. Commenting on Mr Harivansh's gesture of offering tea, Mr Azad said, "I appreciate it. We may have differing views but we need to act as a family."

  7. The eight suspended Rajya Sabha members include Trinamool Congress's Derek O'Brien, Aam Aadmi Party's Sanjay Singh, Congress's Rajeev Satav and CPM's KK Ragesh. Rejecting the offer of revoking their suspension if they give an unconditional apology, Mr Ragesh told NDTV, "There is no question of an unconditional apology. The government must apologise to the farmers."

  8. Quoting former Finance Minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley, Mr Azad said in the Rajya Sabha, "In 2016, Arun Jaitley had said that any government will become illegitimate if the speaker refuses to hold voting. In today's newspapers, there are ads of 'one nation, one party'. For God's sake, do not move  towards of 'one nation, one party'." To this, Venkaiah Naidu responded, saying, "Arun Jaitley is no more. Arun Jaitley had also spoke about the 'tyranny of the minority'. "I appeal to all members to rethink their decision of boycott and participate in the discussion," Mr Naidu said.

  9. Opposition members accuse the Deputy Chairman of helping the government rush through the farm bills in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday without following democratic process. Mr Harivansh had rejected their calls for sending the bills to a select committee for review or even to extend the discussion till Monday. The bills were passed with a voice vote after the Chair rejected opposition calls for physical voting and a division of votes.

  10. Dramatic scenes unfolded in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday as angry opposition members climbed onto the Secretary General's table at the centre of the House, flung a rulebook at Harivansh and pulled out mics. A few members also tore up copies of the bills. In the unprecedented scenes, marshals had to form a wall between the Deputy Chairman and the protesting members.