Footage of Rajya Sabha TV has revealed that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Tiruchi Siva and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader KK Ragesh were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes during the passage of two farming bills in the Upper House on September 20, The Indian Express, which has reviewed the footage, reported on Sunday.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, however, had claimed that he denied the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes because the legislators were not seated when they asked. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien had also claimed that the Rajya Sabha TV feed was cut off while the House pushed the bills through, and Parliament rules were broken that day.
The visuals show that separate motions moved by Siva and O’Brien seeking that the farming bills be referred to a select committee were negated by a voice vote. At 1.09 pm, a demand for the division of votes can be heard to which the deputy chairman replied that such demands need to be made from the seat. Footage at 1.10 pm shows that Siva was in his seat demanding division of votes. Derek O’Brien was then seen rushing to the chairman’s podium with Parliament rulebook shouting that Singh could not do this, while referring to the rules. Siva can still be seen at his seat then.
After the Deputy Speaker began clause by clause consideration of the bill, KK Ragesh was seen at this seat, demanding the division of votes.
At 1.12 pm, Siva can be seen tearing his paper, while Ragesh was at his seat. The next minute, the microphone on the chairman’s podium was uprooted, after which the audio remained off. The Rajya Sabha was then adjourned for 15 minutes.
O’Brien said that he was in his seat when demanding the division of votes. “Between us, Siva and I have 30 years of experience in Parliament,” he told The Sunday Express. “We knew we had moved motions, we had our headsets on. Of course, we were at our seats. Our calls for ‘division’ were brazenly ignored multiple times. The video and audio evidence is damning. At least four Rules of Parliament were broken.”
Ragesh said that he had approached Singh when he extended the session but added that he rushed to his seat when the process of disposing the statutory resolutions began. “I screamed division but the deputy chairman did not look up at me,” he said. “When the deputy chairman took up my amendment after O’Brien’s and Siva’s motions, my microphone came alive. The deputy chairman looked at me… I again screamed for division… he took a voice vote and negated by amendment.”
Singh has not responded to the question on the matter. Unidentified officials claimed the deputy chairman was “distracted” by legislators at the podium as he was ensuring papers were not snatched away from him. The officials added that if the Opposition had not disturbed the proceedings of the House, a division of votes would have been held.
During the proceedings, 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 after they were stopped from speaking. Eight MPs were suspended from the House for their “unruly behaviour”.
Three controversial Bills on agriculture reforms are set to become law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha on September 20 in the middle of utter pandemonium. The three bills are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The last one was also approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.