Lok Sabha proceedings were adjourned four times on Friday following Opposition protests over certain remarks by BJP members, including against the Gandhi family. The ruckus began during the procedure for the introduction of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.
The Congress and the Trinamool Congress strongly protested certain remarks by BJP members, including by Union minister Anurag Singh Thakur and BJP's Locket Chatterjee. After speaking for sometime during the procedure for introduction of the bill, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that her deputy Thakur will talk about PM-CARES Fund.
Opposition members raised concerns about the fund and while speaking, Thakur attacked the Congress and the Gandhis. He also alleged that the Congress had misused the PM Relief Fund. Thakur said the Opposition sees everything, even good things, in a bad light. "Your intention and thought are not good," he said.
Attacking the Congress, Thakur said the PM national relief fund has not been registered till now and also stressed that alleged misuse of funds needs to be looked into. When Congress members protested, Thakur said that names of Nehru and Gandhi family should be taken and alleged that the Gandhi family ruined the country.
About Opposition's concerns, he mentioned that during elections, it was said the EVMs are not working properly, and then it was about demonetisation, triple talaq and GST. Regarding PM-CARES Fund, the minister said that people went to courts against the fund and courts have given rulings in favour of the fund.
The fund was set up in March and it was opposed in April itself. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was preparing to fight the coronavirus pandemic, at that time also, the Opposition was doing politics, Thakur charged. He also said that poor and aged people as well as children have contributed to the fund.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that Chinese companies have donated to PM-CARES Fund and that should also be looked into. In protest against the minister's remarks about the Gandhis, Congress members walked out of the House.
When Speaker Om Birla asked the minister to stop, Thakur said that he needs more time to bring out the real face of the Opposition. "The PM Cares Fund is a constitutionally set up public charitable trust. PM National Relief Fund was set up only for the benefits of one family — Nehru-Gandhi family," he said.
Amid the din, BJP member from West Bengal Chatterjee made some remarks that were opposed by Trinamool Congress members. As the ruckus continued, Birla warned members that they should not stand up to speak and that protection of members is important.
"If anyone gets up to talk… I will take action… I will name them and remove them from the House," Birla said, adding that it would be applicable for all members and ministers. Keeping in mind social distancing norms in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, members have been asked not to stand while speaking.
Apparently referring to certain remarks by ruling party members, Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee said such things cannot continue and alleged that the Speaker was trying to protect BJP members. Banerjee even said that he is also ready to face suspension. Amid the din, the Speaker first adjourned the proceedings for 30 minutes till 4.20 pm.
After the House reconvened, Sitharaman introduced the bill and then the House took up discussion on supplementary demands. Congress members led by Gaurav Gogoi demanded an apology from Thakur for his remarks against the Gandhis.
When Rama Devi, who was presiding the proceedings, asked Chowdhury speak on supplementary demands for excess grants, he said first the House has to be brought in order and then he attacked Thakur for his remarks. Then, Rama Devi asked BJP member Jayant Sinha to speak on supplementary demands.
As he was speaking, Congress members raised slogans such as 'Anurag Thakur maafi maango' and 'Speaker saheb sadan main aaiye'. They were raising slogans while standing. Some Congress members entered the Well of the House raising slogans and the Treasury benches did not react to the sloganeering.
Amid din, Rama Devi adjourned the House for 30 minutes till 5 pm. Later, the proceedings were adjourned twice for 30 minutes each till 6 pm.
As soon as the House assembled at 5.30 pm, Rajendra Agrawal, who was in the chair, requested the protesting members to sit in their places for their own safety as well as for the safety of others in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agrawal also sought cooperation from them and made a plea to them to allow the House to function.
When the session commenced at 6pm, Thakur said it was not his intention to hurt anyone. “I apologise if I have hurt anyone unintentionally," he said. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh praised Speaker Om Birla, whom he said helped overcome such blocks during sessions. He said Anurag Thakur was a young and smart leader, and had accepted it if his words hurt anyone.
Praising members for their extraordinary efforts during this difficult time, the Speaker said the whole world will hail India, which is the largest democracy, for running Parliament in the interest of people in such a situation.
“If anyone thinks that the Chair has hurt someone, I would like to say that it may be unintentional. For me every member is equal and protecting every member is my duty," Birla said.
“If I say anything to anyone, the intention is not to hurt anyone but to run this House smoothly. If someone has been hurt in that process, I personally seek apology from him or her," he added.
Defence Minister and Deputy Leader of the House Rajnath Singh praised the Speaker for running the House smoothly. “The way you handled today’s stalemate is praiseworthy," Singh said.