For the 11th consecutive day, Opposition stalled Parliament today even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the Rajya Sabha, a demand they have been making for resumption of debate on demonetisation.
Changing stance, the Opposition now demanded apology from the Prime Minister for his utterances in which he had targeted those opposing demonetisation and created uproar after it was rejected.
The initial part of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha saw concern being expressed over a problem faced by a commercial plane carrying Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while landing at Kolkata airport last night.
Sharing the concern about Mamata's well-being, the government said a probe will be conducted into the incident.
When Question Hour began and Chairman Hamid Ansari called for the first question of the day, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said while the Prime Minister has been addressing his party MPs in Parliament House and even speaking outside, the Opposition parties have been demanding his presence during the debate on demonetisation issue.
Modi sat through the Question Hour on a day which has questions listed against his name. Subsequently, he was present in the post-lunch session at 2 pm as well.
"We had been demanding for last 15 days (presence of PM). ... We are against blackmoney. We want to speak on this issue but with whom? Our anguish is that the Prime Minister is holding weekly meetings with his MPs in Parliament House. He is also speaking outside. Our demand is that the Prime Minister should be here and listen to us," Azad said.
Azad said the Opposition demand for the presence of the Prime Minister was "a small demand" and "neither anti-national nor anti-Constitution."
When the senior Congress leader also alleged that the PM has remarked that the Opposition parties support blackmoney holders and said it was a "big allegation", BJP members protested the remark.
Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu insisted that the House should continue with the debate on demonetisation, which started on November 16, the first day of the Winter session.
Ansari also said that the debate has not been concluded and called the listed speaker A U Singh Deo (BJD) to start.
Sharad Yadav (JDU) said he too agreed that the debate should continue, but it "cannot be one-way traffic" and demanded that the Prime Minister should remain seated in the House all through the discussion.
"Why are you assuming that he (PM) will not participate," Ansari asked the Opposition member.
As Singh Deo rose to speak on demonetisation, Congress members started raising slogans like "Pradhan Mantri Mafi Maango (PM should apologise)" from the aisles.
Naidu said the Prime Minister is here and the unfinished debate should be resumed. However amid din, the House was adjourned for 15 minutes.
When it reassembled at 1229 hours, Congress members were again on their feet raising slogans as BJD member started to speak on the debate, which was initiated on November 16 and remained inconclusive as the House was stalled. The debate had resumed briefly on November 24 for one hour but could not proceed further due to continuous din. Amid noisy scenes, Deo said, "We support any move taken by the Government of India for corruption and black money." But as the sloganeering continued, Ansari adjourned the House till 1400 hours. Uproar by the Opposition members continued when the House reconvened. With the Prime Minister present in the House as demanded by the Opposition for days, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien went ahead to resume discussion on demonitisation. However, Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said Modi never came to the House but always spoke outside the Parliament. Members from the ruling side objected to this and said discussion should begin. In the din, Congress leaders and those from the BSP and others trooped into the well of the House demanding apology from the PM and shouting slogans asking the government to return people's money back into their own hands. Agitated over this, I&B Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the Opposition has been exposed and Congress should apologise for the 60 years of misrule. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also objected to the demand for apology by the Prime Minister questioning whether he should apologise for targeting black money hoarders. He said it was the Congress which should apologise to the poor for what they done in the 60 years of rule. Kurien kept insisting that the Opposition's demand was that Modi should be present and now since he is here, the discussion should start. With the protests showing no signs of abating, Kurien adjourned the House till tomorrow morning. Earlier, when the Upper House met for the day, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said Mamata's life was endangered last night when she was flying from Patna to Kolkata on an IndiGo flight. He said the plane was low on fuel, still it was made to hover over the Kolkata airport for upto 30 minutes. About 200 km from Kolkata, the ATC informed that the flight was 8th in landing sequence but the pilot relayed a message that it was low on fuel and should be allowed to give priority landing, O'Brien said. Despite the warning, the flight was made to hover over the Kolkata airport for at least 15 minutes and by some count 30 minutes, he said, adding besides Mamata, there were 100 other passengers on the flight whose life was put to danger.
"Today it is one opposition leader... This opposition leader is at the forefront (of anti-demonetisation campaign)," he said, adding questions are being raised if it is a conspiracy to eliminate opposition leaders. The flight landed under full emergency conditions, he said and asked why was the pilot denied permission to land. "I am not insinuating anything but there is a school of thought which believes it may be a conspiracy." Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said just when the IndiGo flight called in to report low fuel, two other planes of Air India and SpiceJet also did the same. Mamata's flight hovered over Kolkata airport for only 13 minutes and it was ensured that the aircraft landed in a safe and orderly manner, Sinha said. He said the IndiGo flight took off from Patna at 1936 hours yesterday and landed at Kolkata at 2040 hours after hovering for 13 minutes. "At no point was anybody's life at risk or danger. All safety procedure were fully followed," he said. "Air safety of all passengers is of utmost importance to us... We did everything possible that every flight landed safely," he said, adding "passenger security is of utmost importance and we are doing the best and no one should have any doubt on it." He said DGCA has specific standards for low fuel and priority landing and all procedures were fully followed. As per norms, every plane is mandated to carry enough fuel to allow 30-40 minutes of hovering and traveling to nearest diversion airport, he said. The Minister said DGCA will probe as to how three flights could fly with low fuel despite strict norms. Aircraft instrumentation would also be checked to find out how much fuel was there when the flights took off and whether they carried enough fuel, he said. "Strict action will be taken for any violation," he said adding criminal investigation would be conducted. "We will do the needful. Passenger safety is number one priority and will remain so." Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a very serious issue as any plane flying on low fuel should be given top priority in landing and sought a probe into the incident. Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the incident has created doubts in minds of people and an inquiry must be ordered and its report tabled in the Parliament. Mayawati (BSP) said the government should rise above party politics and order an inquiry, while Sharad Yadav (JD-U) also termed the incident as serious and sought a probe. Prem Chand Gupta (RJD) said when a flight is low on fuel it should be allowed to land first and it should not be converted into "an opportunity to take out vengeance." Rajeev Shukla (Cong) said how could airplanes be allowed to take-off when they are low on fuel. K T S Tulsi (Nominated) said based on the material brought out so far, it is a fit case for registering an FIR for attempt to murder and investigating the case.
The Lok Sabha also was paralyse, with the Opposition insisting on debate on demonetisation issue under a rule that entails voting. Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress, said the Opposition wants to hold discussion on demonetisation. "You should give consent for discussion under Rule 56.
This is a big issue, scam and scandal. Government employees, poor people are not getting salaries. We want to put forth the problems faced by them. But you want to run away from discussion," he told Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. "People are being murdered in installments. Every day there is a new firman (order), the country is facing trouble, but the government is at ease," Kharge said. Mahajan objected to the use of word 'scandal' by Kharge. "This is not a scandal. I am ready for discussion. Even yesterday, I said I can relax all rules for discussion on the issue as this is under my jurisdiction. Let's start the discussion." However, the Congress, joined by the JD(U), CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress stormed into the Well, demanding discussion under provisions that entail voting. Hitting out at the Opposition, particularly the Congress, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, "We are ready for discussion, but the Congress is not. You (Mahajan) said we can discuss everything, from zero to universe, but Congress only wants to go from zero to zero. "They should not dare to stop the fight against black money as the whole country is with Prime Minister Narendra Modi." As the deadlock continued, TRS MP Jithender Reddy sought an intervention from seniors like BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab. Mahtab said Parliament functions on rules and conventions and not as per the "whims and caprice". "I request the government to take initiative and talk to respective political parties and start the discussion," he said. When Mahajan again said, "Let's start the discussion," Kharge said this was possible only under provision of voting. Attacking the government, TMC's Sudeep Bandopadhyay, said the black money holders are happy because the government has fixed the "50-50 ratio", while poor are suffering. He was referring to the new amendments in IT Act passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. "Black money should be properly punished, but what is happening is that common people are suffering. We simply want discussion with voting. Why is the government not ready for discussion....," the TMC MP said. Interestingly, as Opposition members raised anti-government slogans demanding voting, BJP members started shouting 'Modi Modi' to counter them. Earlier when the House assembled for the day, Mahajan took up the Question Hour, but protesting Opposition members turned vociferous with their slogan shouting besides occasionally resorting to howling and clapping. In the din, the Speaker could take up only two questions and the related supplementaries, before adjourning the House proceedings till noon.