‘What Else to Expect With Leader like Rahul Gandhi?’ Pralhad Joshi on ‘Misconduct’ of MPs Over Farm Bills
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the ‘misconduct’ by MPS in Parliament was a Black Day in History of Indian Democracy. (PTI/File photo)
‘What Else Do You Expect With Leader like Rahul Gandhi?’ Pralhad Joshi on ‘Misconduct’ of MP Over Farm Bills
Taking a stern view of over the chaos that erupted in the Parliament during the passing of the farm bills on September 20, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi lambasted the Congress and termed the incident “a blot on the conduct of the Opposition”. In an interview to CNN-News18, Joshi talks about the misconduct of MPs and the downfall of Congress and says the NDA had numbers all along to pass the Bill. Edited Excerpts:
What is your take on the misconduct of MPs in the Parliament during the passing of controversial farm bills on September 20? Chairman of the House, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, said they “tarnished” the image of the House of Elders.
The incident was clearly a blot on the conduct of the Opposition. The way Congress and parties behaved on that day… it is clearly a black day in the history of Indian democracy. The way in which MPs behaved with Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh shows their sheer frustration, it shows they don't respect any position or institution. They knew they cannot attack the government so they chose to target him. Harivansh took a stand to tell them to go to their seats. It was not good on the part of the grand old party to do this, it was a knee-jerk reaction. They moved a no-confidence motion without realising that one needs to move motion for it… it showed they were rattled.
Why did you rush the session?
The proposal to reduce the session came the MPs of opposition parties. I don't want to take any names but if you ask them privately without quoting them they will agree to it. Quite a few opposition leaders told us they were ready to sit over and above the stipulated time to finish the work and were largely in the favour of curtailing the session.
Opposition leaders have claimed that you passed the Bill in the middle of the din because you realised the numbers were not in your favour.
This is a blatant misconception by the opposition parties. The numbers for NDA were over 100 that day in Rajya Sabha. Opposition was not more than 75, BJP had 82 out of 86 MPs present, four were absent, including the vacancy created due to Ashok Gasti’s death. We had our ally JDU which had three out of five MPs present. The AIADMK has nine MPs, out of which four were present. The YSRCP also supported us… out of six its members, five were present for the Bill. Two MPs of PDP and one TDP MP was to support us. Also, support of smaller parties along with independent and nominated members we had another 15 MPS in support.
If you look at the Congress and the TMC, both had many MPs missing from the proceedings that day. Out of 40, only 28 MPS from the Congress were present. This includes 10 who had excused themselves for the whole of the session. The TMC had a total of just five out of the 13 MPs. Six of DMK MPs were present and the TRS had a strength of four out of seven MPS. If we add other parties such as SP, RJD, AAP, NCP, Shiv Sena, IUML and others, the strength of opposition MPs would still not have crossed 70 that day. Leaders like Sharad Pawar were absent and both NCP and Shiv Sena walked out after the discussion on the Bill.
I am not making these claims myself; these numbers are from the attendance record on that day. Parties such as the BJD wanted the Bill to be sent to select committee and may not have voted against it even then. If we assume they would have supported the Opposition, it still wouldn't have reached anywhere close to our numbers. All the nine MPs of the BJD supporting the Opposition would've still taken them the number to not more than 80. They called their MPs from galleries and other chambers to gather in rgw Rajya Sabha chamber to create this sort of scenario. Our people stood quietly because we knew the numbers were with us. Creating ruckus in the House is another thing, the Opposition must realise that the mandate is clearly with the NDA.
Eight Bills were passed in two days without Opposition. Is that justified?
We did not ask the Opposition to boycott the session. Nor did we ask them to go out of the House. Also, the fact that these Bills which were ordinances were due to be passed was known to everyone. It was widely discussed in our interactions with the Opposition and also in the business advisory committee. We did not throw any surprises at them by bringing up the Bills all of a sudden.
The Opposition has also claimed that the days of dialogue and discussion are over. Do you think the Parliament has now become a place of autocracy?
This is yet another lie. We had a discussion with the Congress leadership and we told the likes of Jairam Ramesh that we would like to finish the Bill discussion and passage on the same day, and told them we may need to extend the House timings by another hour or so. So all these claims, such as, ‘no consensus was sought to extend the House’ are bogus.
Also, the Congress party must come on record to explain why it insisted that we bring this Bill only on Monday and not on Sunday. They gave us various excuses, including that if it was on Monday, one of their members, Deepender Hooda, would test negative for Covid-19 and possibly be available.
Is this expected from a party like Congress — which has been in power for so long — to behave in such fashion?
The Congress has been in power for a much longer duration than us but the way in which their conduct has been going shows they have lost their balance. What else do you expect when you have a leader like Rahul Gandhi? Any democracy can thrive on a strong Opposition, but it looks like Congress is pretty non-serious. I don't want to talk about anybody's health... we all know Congress President Sonia Gandhi had to travel abroad for health reasons. But if Rahul Gandhi was so serious, why did he miss out on the entire Parliament session? Those who do not have any faith in the Gandhian principles are sitting in front of the Gandhi statue in protest by the orders of the nakli (fake) Gandhis.
Didn't you agree to discuss and send some Bills for further Parliamentary scrutiny? None of that was witnessed. What do you think was the reason for it?
We had a number of meetings, including the BAC and an informal meeting, for nearly three hours. They came back and wanted to send ordinance to a select committee. Where is the logic in that? Why would we bring an ordinance if it was not urgent enough?
After so much bitterness between both sides, do you think there is scope for you to establish a dialogue again?
As a government, we will continue to talk to them and keep the dialogue chain open. Also, the Opposition needs to know that the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2019 with people's blessings and with a bigger mandate from the last time. We will work for people and their interests. Any attempt to block that will sink the Opposition further.