Chaos prevailed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday during a discussion on the novel coronavirus when Rashtriya Loktantrik Party – an ally of the BJP – MP Hanuman Beniwal said Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi should be tested for the infection as nearly half of the patients in India are Italians, PTI reported. Italy, the country of Sonia Gandhi’s birth, is one of the worst-affected countries by the outbreak.
“Most of the patients who have tested positive for coronavirus in India have come from Italy,” Beniwal said. “Earlier, [Congress leader] Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Rahul Gandhi had first warned about the coronavirus, so [does that mean] it [came out] from their home? Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi should also be tested to check if they have coronavirus.”
Beniwal’s comments were met with a massive uproar from Opposition leaders, following which the House was adjourned till 2 pm. Later, Beniwal claimed to ANI that the Gandhi family had just returned from Italy.
After the Lower House reconvened at 2 pm, Congress MPs stormed into the Well, and demanded Beniwal’s suspension. BJP leader Rama Devi, who was the Chair, continued with the proceedings, which was met with strong Opposition. Congress leaders chanted slogans of “suspend the MP, Modi Sarkar shame shame’.
Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi, who has since been suspended, was seen throwing papers kept on the Lok Sabha Speaker’s podium. Following the ruckus, the House was adjourned till 3 pm.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi moved a suspension motion against seven Congress MPs. It was passed by a voice vote. Following this, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, presiding over the session, asked the Congress MPs to leave the Lok Sabha chambers, and adjourned the House for the day.
Gaurav Gogoi, TN Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, R Unnithan, Manickam Tagore, Benny Behnan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla are the leaders who were suspended. “Suspend us for a year, but discuss Delhi riots and heal wounds of people,” said Gogoi.
Earlier too, the Lower House was disrupted for the fourth straight day as Opposition MPs continued their unrelenting protest against the violence in North East Delhi, which has claimed 47 lives so far. Speaker Om Birla was not present for the second day, as he was saddened by the behaviour of some members, Biju Janata Dal MP B Mahtab told the House.
Mahtab, who was presiding over the proceedings in Birla’s absence, chided the parliamentarians for disrupting the proceedings. He said Birla had “every right to express his anguish”. The House was first adjourned till noon as many chanted slogans of “we want justice”.
The government had on Tuesday said it was ready for a discussion on the communal violence in Delhi in both Houses after Holi.
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day as the Opposition continued to protest. Chaos ensued during the Zero Hour, as Opposition MPs renewed their demands for debate on the situation in Delhi. “This is Parliament, not a bazaar,” Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu told the parliamentarians before adjourning the House.
Earlier on Thursday, a discussion on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus took place in the Upper House. Briefing the parliamentarians about the situation, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “The World Health Organisation has termed this outbreak as a crucial concern. Though it has not declared it pandemic, it has asked countries to remain alert.”
India has reported a total of 30 cases of the novel coronavirus so far.
He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally monitoring the situation in India. “A group of ministers has been constituted to keep an eye on the situation. Video conferences are being held with states every other day.”
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Azad Nabi interjected him and said, “The entire country is in a state of panic. There must be dos and don’ts across such points.”
When the Congress leader raised concerns about public areas of mass gatherings like railway stations and bus stations, the minister assured the House that the government is undertaking all necessary measures to contain the virus. “The Indian embassy are also in touch with embassies in China and keeping an eye on their well-being. Senior offices of the ministries have been deputed to review preparedness. States have been guided to identify containment zones,” Vardhan said.
The Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that 17 Indians have been infected abroad. Harsh Vardhan had also announced that all passengers flying in from abroad will now be screened for COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Azad and his deputy Anand Sharma gave a suspension of business notice under Rule 267 over the Delhi violence. Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien also gave a suspension notice to discuss the “healing needed after deaths in Delhi”. Meanwhile, legislators from Left parties protested in front of the Gandhi statue, demanding the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the Delhi violence.