Three more Rajya Sabha Opposition members have quit their respective parties, and are expected to join the BJP. While the Samajwadi Party's Surendra Nagar had quit a couple of days ago and his resignation was accepted on Monday, his party colleague Sanjay Seth also gave up Rajya Sabha membership. The shocker for the Congress was its chief whip, Bhubaneswar Kalita (pictured), quitting the Rajya Sabha. Until Sunday, Kalita had told journalists that he had given notice, along with some others, demanding a discussion on the situation in Kashmir. After the Rajya Sabha chairman announced he had accepted Kalita's resignation, an unsigned letter purportedly written by Kalita emerged. In the letter he stated he had quit to oppose the party's stand on the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. “I was asked by the party to issue a whip but this is against the mood of the nation. The party is on its way towards destruction and I can't be a contributor to it,” he said.
Scurrying for cover
As the Rajya Sabha took up the debate on Bills related to modifying Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs of the Lok Sabha came to watch the Rajya Sabha proceedings. The Rajya Sabha has a visitors’ gallery for Lok Sabha members. As these members listened to the speeches, the Rajya Sabha briefly took up other business since Home Minister Amit Shah had to speak in the Lok Sabha on another Bill. As soon as Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced that Shah was in the other House, the BJP MPs in the visitors’ gallery left for the Lok Sabha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah have repeatedly asked party MPs to ensure their attendance in their respective Houses, which made these MPs nervous enough to leave.
Making a point
As Home Minister Amit Shah introduced resolutions and Bills in the Rajya Sabha to modify Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir, the leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, protested vehemently. Azad, a senior Congress leader, then led his party MPs to sit in the well, as did MPs from the Trinamool Congress, the Left parties, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. However, not all in the Congress were convinced by this strategy. Some seniors argued that the government would "manufacture" a majority and that the Congress should at least put its point across by participating in the debate. A senior Congress leader remarked that Azad, since he hailed from Jammu and Kashmir, had responded emotionally to the situation and eventually saw merit in joining the debate. “It was important for us to protest by sitting in the well of the House, but it was also important to put our point across. We did both,” another senior Congress leader said.