Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday suspended 24 members of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for repeatedly entering the Well of the House to protest against the construction of a dam over the Cauvery river, The Hindu reported. Mahajan said the legislators were disrupting the proceedings of the House and adjourned the Lok Sabha till 11 am on Thursday.
“Elections are coming, so the Bharatiya Janata Party wants to get some seats there, that is why they gave approval to Karnataka for Mekedatu dam project,” AIADMK leader M Thambidurai told reporters, ANI reported. “Protesting is our democratic right, but there has been no response from the government.”
The AIADMK has 37 members in the Lower House.
Earlier in the day, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha, The Indian Express reported. The Union Cabinet in December had approved amendments to two laws – Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act – to make it optional to link biometric identification Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile numbers.
Opposition parties on Wednesday asked Parliament to reconsider the bill tabled by Prasad, saying that it violated the Supreme Court verdict. “Aadhaar is not identification, rather it is a process of authentication as under the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India],” said Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
However, Prasad said that Aadhaar has been a “robust and successful process”. “We are not violating the Supreme Court judgment, but Parliament has the authority to move a bill on the basis of the judgement,” he said. He added that the bill will not violate privacy.
“We should not forget that Aadhaar has led to saving of Rs 90,000 crore through Direct Benefit Transfers,” Prasad said. He claimed that multilateral organisations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have praised India’s Aadhaar scheme.
Prasad also said that the government will soon introduce a data protection bill in Parliament. But Tharoor alleged that the bill is “premature”. “The bill is premature because first we need enactment of data protection law,” he said. “The bill must be withdrawn and revised.”
Later, Congress President Rahul Gandhi attacked the government over the Rafale deal. “First pillar [of the agreement] is process, second is pricing and the third and most interesting is patronage,” he said. “Senior officers of the Indian Air Force chose Rafale after long negotiations. The IAF wanted 126 aircraft, why was the demand changed to 36?”
“The prime minister said in an interview that no one is accusing him [of corruption] in Rafale,” he added. “But the entire nation is asking a direct question to the prime minister.”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally, Shiv Sena, backed the Opposition party’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee into the Rafale deal, PTI reported.
The Trinamool Congress criticised Jaitely for “wrongly quoting” fictional spy character James Bond from the films by the same name. In a repartee in Parliament, Jaitley had said, “In the movie, Bond says if it happens for the first time then it is happenstance, if it happens twice it is coincidence and if it is thrice then it is conspiracy. Congress president is doing the same.”
TMC legislator Saugata Roy said the protagonist had actually said that if it happens for the third time, “then it is enemy action and not conspiracy”.
“Jaitley is losing his touch and his memory is failing him,” Roy said.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned after Gandhi tried to play a tape of Goa minister Vishwajit Rane purportedly saying “[Chief Minister] Manohar Parrikar has secrets of Rafale deal under his bed.” The House will again meet at 3.30 pm.
The Rajya Sabha, too, was adjourned till Thursday following disruptions by Opposition parties over a range of matters on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, as the AIADMK and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leaders continued shouting slogans over the Cauvery matter, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu asked dozens of legislators from both the parties to leave the House for the day. The proceedings were called off till 3 pm after AIADMK MPs continued their protest, ANI reported. Congress MPs, meanwhile, demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Rafale jet deal.
On Monday, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned amid the uproar over the contentious Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill. The Opposition demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee of the Upper House before being passed. The triple talaq bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 27 after the Congress and the AIADMK members walked out.