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Even as Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat battle out whether their party should enter into any electoral understanding with the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress parliamentarians were long lost comrades in arms in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The CPI (M) is in the midst of an intra-party battle over its future ‘political tactical line’. The dispute is whether it should enter into any direct electoral understanding with the Congress. There is no disagreement on its alliances with the Congress in the states, as long as a regional party is also involved, for example in Tamil Nadu.
However, in Parliament on Wednesday, the handful of CPI (M) MPs had no confusion about adding their voices to that of the Congress MPs.
In the Lok Sabha, the CPI (M) MPs joined the Congress MPs to demand answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale fighter jet deal. The sloganeered incessantly, along with the Congress MPs, for the entire duration of the PM’s reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address.
At one point, CPI (M) MPs like Mohammed Salim and others were also seen holding placards given to them by the protesting Congress MPs. Some of the Left MPs from Kerala took to sloganeering in Malayalam, and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi joined in.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress voted along with the 8 MPs of the Left parties, which includes 7 of the CPI (M), to support an amendment to the President’s speech. CPI (M)’s T K Rangarajan moved an amendment that sought inclusion of the phrase that the House regrets “that there is no mention in the (President’s) Address about the Government’s failure to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill.”
Leader of the House Arun Jaitley requested Rangarajan to withdraw the amendment as the government was willing to discuss the issue. But Rangarajan persisted and pressed for voting. He found support from Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. However, some other political parties from the Opposition camp, especially the Samajwadi Party, voted with the government.
The amendment was negated with 57 members in favour and 86 against. “You are all anti-women. Thank you,” said Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury. Congress and Left members supported Chowdhury saying “sharam karo, sharam karo (shame shame).”
"You have no right to say that." The women's bill was passed during the UPA rule in Rajya Sabha in March 2010, but could not be passed in Lok Sabha,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said.
Leader of Opposition Azad said, "We passed this bill in this House. But some coalition members did not agree on the bill (in the Lower House)."
The CPI (M) also issued a statement on the controversy over the Rafale deal.