Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh on Tuesday declared he would fast for a day to express his anguish over the “humiliating conduct” of opposition leaders during the controversial session on the contentious farming bills, PTI reported. Singh said he hoped his action would inspire a feeling of “self-purification” in them.
In a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu, Singh recounted his version of events in the House during the passage of the bills on Sunday and accused opposition leaders of “violent conduct” in the name of democracy. The deputy chairperson said the MPs tried to frighten the Chair and “tore every norm and convention of the House to shreds”.
“Whatever happened, I have been extremely anguished, in mental distress, and have been unable to sleep for the past two days,” he added, according to NDTV.
On Sunday, two contentious farm ordinances, which the government claims are meant to liberalise the sector by opening it up to private players, were passed by a voice vote – not a division of votes – even though the Congress, Trinamool Congress and others made a demand for the same to the deputy chairperson. The members of opposition parties protested against this and called it a “murder of democracy”. In the middle, the audio telecast of the live proceedings was briefly muted.
After opposition leaders were prevented from speaking in Parliament, the politicians climbed atop tables, snatched the rule book, flung documents in the air and tried to take away the deputy chairman’s microphone to lodge their protest. Eight MPs were suspended from the House on Monday.
Singh, who was in the Chair during the session, claimed that leaders threw paper missiles at him and displayed “brazenly aggressive behaviour”. The deputy chairperson also accused the politicians of “raising tasteless and unparliamentary slogans”.
“This sight of disrobing of democracy jolted his mind and heart and I could not sleep for the whole night,” he added. “Whatever happened in front of me on September 20, has caused unimaginable loss to the dignity of House and Chair.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Singh met the suspended legislators as they continued their overnight protest outside Parliament against the farming bills. Visuals showed him serving tea to the MPs, who are camping near the Gandhi statue of the Parliament complex.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in support of Singh. “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,” the prime minister tweeted.
On Monday, Modi said the farm bills that had generated controversy and outrage from Opposition parties were “historic and necessary” for the country to move forward in the 21st Century. He claimed that the Opposition was instigating farmers with lies as they “feel control slipping away”.
While the Opposition said the “anti-farmer” bills were passed in an undemocratic manner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused them of disrupting parliamentary proceedings. But neither the Centre nor the Rajya Sabha chairperson and his deputy have offered an explanation as to why a division vote was not allowed on the farm bills, despite the fact that several parties were opposed to the bills.
Farmers and traders have also been vehemently opposing the new bills, alleging the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the bills would bring about corporate dominance in agriculture.