Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Rajya Sabha is an institution that provides checks and balances in India’s democracy, but there is a distinction between “checking and clogging” – a reference to disruptions in previous sessions. Meanwhile, Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha criticised the Centre for the detention of National Conference leader and sitting Lok Sabha MP Farooq Abdullah in Jammu and Kashmir since the region’s special status was revoked in August.

The developments came on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament. Modi addressed the Rajya Sabha to mark the 250th session of the House.

The prime minister claimed that debates in the Upper House would have to be “many and effective”. “But, there is also a difference between checking and clogging [and between] balance and blocking,” he said. Modi recalled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remarks that the Rajya Sabha “may be the second house” but should not be viewed as a “secondary house”. “Today, I echo the sentiments of Atalji and add that the Rajya Sabha must be a vibrant supportive House for national progress,” he said.

He also praised the Nationalist Congress Party and the Biju Janata Dal for following the Parliament’s norms and never storming the Well of the House, yet putting across their opinions effectively. He noted that the triple talaq bill and the Goods and Services Tax legislation became “a reality” after being passed by the Upper House.

“Who can forget that it was through the Rajya Sabha that a stalwart like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar could contribute even more to national progress,” Modi said.

Marshals in the Rajya Sabha got a new uniform to mark the 250th session. They will now be wearing a military-style suit with caps, a departure from the traditional Indian attire of a kurta and a turban.

Farooq Abdullah’s detention

The Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha raised concerns about the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s detention. The legislators described the detention as illegal and demanded that he should be allowed to attend Parliament.

“Farooq Sahab represents Srinagar and it is [the] right of the 20 lakh people of Srinagar that their voice be heard in the House,” said National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi. “I have proof that he is not in judicial custody, he is in preventive custody.”

Abdullah and two other former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained after the Centre abrogated the region’s special constitutional status and split it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised the matter of Indian leaders not being allowed to visit the Valley while provisions were made for the European Union parliamentarians to make a trip. “Our leader Rahul Gandhi was not allowed to visit [Jammu and Kashmir], several MPs were sent back...whereas ‘bhade ke tattu’ [hirelings] from Europe were being taken there,” he said. “Isn’t it an insult to all MPs. I want to ask MPs of ruling alliance don’t they think it was their insult.”

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader TR Baalu asked Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla’s intervention in the matter and said that as the custodian of the House he should ensure all members are able to attend. Members of the Trinamool Congress also voiced similar displeasure with Abdullah’s detention.

The Shiv Sena raised slogans and walked out of the House with a demand for farmers’ relief. The party has been engaged in a political tussle over government formation in Maharashtra and also skipped a National Democratic Alliance meeting ahead of the session.

Tributes to Arun Jaitley, other members in Rajya Sabha

In its morning sitting, the Rajya Sabha allowed leaders to pay their respects to five former members of the House who died recently, including former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. According to convention, the chairman of the House reads out obituary references to those who have passed on as members rise to show respect.

Following tributes from several leaders, Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the proceedings till 2 pm as a tribute. Naidu called Jaitley a “quintessential politician” and a “man of impeccable integrity”. Leader of the House Thawar Chand Gehlot said the Bharatiya Janata Party leader’s demise was a personal loss to him.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said Jaitley was a mentor to many new legislators even if they belonged to parties with a different ideology.

Apart from Jaitley, tributes were paid to lawyer and MP Ram Jethmalani, and former members Jagannath Mishra, Gurudas Dasgupta, and Sukhdev Singh Libra.

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