While Union Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot is the leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah is the person BJP ministers and floor strategists turn to for guidance whenever he is present. However, on Thursday Gehlot had his opportunity to assert his position. As the Rajya Sabha reconvened after lunch to continue the debate on the National Medical Commission Bill, the Opposition protested that neither Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, nor his deputy Ashwini Kumar Choubey was present in the House. It is customary for at least one minister of a department to be present in the House when it is discussing a Bill moved by the department. Deputy Chairman Harivansh had to adjourn the House for 10 minutes. A message was sent to the two ministers. As the two ministers reached the House nearly out of breath, Gehlot scolded them: “What is this tamasha? Neither of you were here and the House was adjourned.”
English versus Hindi
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader and Rajya Sabha Member Vaiko (pictured) on Thursday rattled everyone — from Treasury Bench members to the Opposition, including the ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). As Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan began his reply on the National Medical Commission Bill in the evening, Vaiko demanded the minister speak in English since the issue was a national one. While the Chair said an interpretation facility was available, MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) tried to shout Vaiko down and demanded the minister speak in Hindi. When Harsh Vardhan, who had switched to English, reverted to Hindi, Vaiko protested. When the Congress’ Jairam Ramesh and the DMK’s Tirushi Siva tried to mollify him, Vaiko shooed them away. Harsh Vardhan was rattled enough to tell Union Home Minister Amit Shah that he was unsure as to which language he should speak in. The MDMK leader has championed the anti-Hindi movement in Tamil Nadu, and, during slogan shouting in the Rajya Sabha, makes it a point not to add his voice to Hindi slogans.
Tug of war
An upcoming mega convention centre was allotted land in the capital’s south-west sub-city of Dwarka last year and construction was expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Now the department executing the project is believed to be lobbying for extra land beyond the allotted perimeter while the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the city’s land-owning agency, is trying hard not to cede ground beyond what it has allotted. The reason, say top DDA officials, is that the land at the location comes at a huge premium. Now the DDA has intensified efforts to auction the patches adjoining the allotted land because it fears that high-profile people involved in the project may use their clout to get what they wanted, said sources.