Trinamool Congress legislator Derek O’Brien on Sunday released a video explaining what transpired in the Rajya Sabha when two contentious agriculture bills were passed, and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of steamrolling the ordinances through Parliament without allowing a proper discussion.
O’Brien said the Rajya Sabha had a peaceful debate till 1 pm, when the proceedings were scheduled to end. Opposition members had moved motions disapproving the farming bills, demanding that these be referred to a select committee for parliamentary scrutiny. But O’Brien said Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, who was in the Chair, negated this. “We have a right to move a resolution to send these bills to a select community,” he added. “But these bills were passed without any parliamentary scrutiny.”
During the proceedings, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was in the process of wrapping up his reply to the debate. The situation started spiralling after Singh rejected the demand from the Opposition benches to end the session for the day as per schedule. Opposition leaders trooped inside the well of the House in protest, tore and flung documents, and amid the chaos, microphones of both the secretary general and the deputy chairperson were broken. Audio telecast of the live proceedings was soon cut.
The breaking point came when opposition leaders sought division on votes, but this was turned down by the deputy chairperson who pointed out that members were not at their designated seats.
In his video, O’Brien pointed out that the rules dictate that even if one member of the House asks for a resolution to be put to vote, it should be.
“The chair has to grant you that right,” O’ Brien added. “But today, unbelievably, the right was taken away from the opposition. That is a serious breach of parliamentary rules and parliamentary democracy. This is like taking the parliamentary democracy, shoving a knife inside it and killing it. And so, we protested.”
The TMC leader said the bills were ploughed through the Parliament even though most opposition parties and some allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi called them anti-farmer legislations. “The Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Biju Janata Dal from Odisha were also against the bills today,” O’Brien said. “So, did the government not have the numbers? Is that why they did not put the bills to a voice vote?”
O’Brien said opposition leaders were merely exercising their right to protest against the undemocratic practices and the circumvention of parliamentary procedures. “Yes, in the process some members broke two microphones,” he added. “But what do you want them to do? Sit and eat a lollipop? Extreme situation calls for extreme form of protest.”
The TMC leader accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of breaking the back of the democracy.
Visuals showed O’Brien rushing to the chair of the deputy speaker and waving the rulebook of the Upper House in front of him on Sunday. Questions were also raised about the propriety of MPs shooting videos inside the House. But O’Brien denied allegations that he tore the rulebook. “I did not tear the book but if I wanted to, I would because there are no rules left anymore.”
O’Brien also spoke about the alleged censorship of the Rajya Sabha proceedings during the protests. “You censored the session and muted the audio,” he added. “So, yes we recorded the session on our phones. Yes the Opposition shot pictures, took video. We have proof of what really happened.”