The BJP on Wednesday took a swipe at the Congress over its criticism of the Union government for not having the Question Hour during the upcoming Parliament session, saying it is amusing to see opposition members who "don't have power" to question even their party president create a "fake narrative" on this issue. Rajya Sabha member and BJP media head Anil Baluni said that the uproar caused by opposition members over the Question Hour suspension is nothing but a "masterclass in hypocrisy". In these times of COVID-19 pandemic, the two Houses of Parliament will convene only for four hours daily and so naturally there is a paucity of time, he said, citing the reason behind not keeping the Question Hour a part of the 18-day session.
Unstarred questions, answers to which are given to members in a written form, will be allowed, he added. BJP sources also said that the government is working to see if the Question Hour can be accommodated in the session, which starts from September 14.
Baluni noted that several state assemblies have functioned after March, the month when COVID-19 began to spread and brought about the nationwide lockdown, and that there has been no Question Hour in the assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. All these states are ruled by non-BJP parties, and his party did not raise a hue and cry there, he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had spoken to all parties where they all supported this move, but they have changed their stand now, he said. Baluni pointed out that when Question Hour was a normal feature in Parliament, it was routinely "disrupted" by opposition parties. "The extent of disturbance of the Question Hour is visible from the fact that in the last eight sessions, out of the 162 hours allotted for it, only 59 hours were used and more than 102 hours were lost due to disruptions and adjournment," he said. "For the parties creating an uproar, can they tell how many questions have their top leaders asked in the question hour?" he asked.
Rebutting the opposition's charge, he said it is far-fetched to say that this is being done by the government to evade questions. "This is simply a case of extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. The government has always answered each question with sincerity," he said.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and the party's deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma have criticised the proposal to exclude Question Hour during this session, saying this is arbitrary and undemocratic as it is the members' right to ask questions to the government on key issues. The Left and the Trinamool Congress have also attacked the government for this.