Harivansh meets protesting MPs, tells Chairman that he faced ‘mental agony’

Amid no signs of any peace being brokered between the opposition camp and the government over suspension of unruly MPs, Deputy Chairman in Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Narayan Singh on Tuesday met the protesting lawmakers and offered them tea. In a letter to Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, he also said he was pained to see “violent behaviour” of the opposition MPs and that those were “brazen violation and tradition of the Upper House”.

However, the opposition camp was not much impressed though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded the gesture of Mr Harivansh of visiting the protesting MPs. Suspended Rajya Sabha MPs from the Opposition on Tuesday ended their sit-in in Parliament premises after Leader of the Opposition in the House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, announced a boycott of the proceedings in the on-going session.

In a video in circulation in media during the visit of Harivansh to the site of protesting MPs, Trinamool member Derek O’ Brien, who tore up the Rule Book on Sunday in the House, was heard telling Mr Harivansh: “BJP should not use you for Bihar elections.”

“The rules were not followed (in Rajya Sabha on Sunday)…..” Deputy Chairman, Harivansh also announced a fast against the protest of the MPs.

Quite surprisingly, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma said – “After brazenly violating rules, procedures and practices for passing bills and making laws,
the Deputy Chairman is now shedding crocodile tears for Parliamentary democracy”.

“Hypocrisy will not wash away the sin of doing injustice to India’s farmers,” he said. The Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has announced that the opposition parties will boycott the Rajya Sabha session till the suspension order on the MPs was revoked.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee backed the protesting lawmakers.

“Farmers are the pillars of our agrarian nation. BJP’s unconstitutional attack on the grassroots of our society is proof of their pseudo-nationalism. We will fight your fascism from the pavement to the parliament,” she tweeted.

The Prime Minister in his series of tweets said: “For centuries, the great land of Bihar has been teaching us the values of democracy. In line with that wonderful ethos, MP from Bihar and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Shri Harivansh Ji’s inspiring and statesman-like conduct this morning will make every democracy lover proud”.

“To personally serve tea to those who attacked and insulted him a few days ago as well as those sitting on Dharna shows that Shri Harivansh Ji has been blessed with a humble mind and a big heart. It shows his greatness,” the Prime Minister said.

Eight opposition members of the Rajya Sabha, suspended on Sept 21 over the massive chaos when controversial farm bills were passed on Sunday (Sept 20), spent the night on the lawns of the parliament complex.

They announced an indefinite protest. The 8 suspended Opposition members are Derek O Brien and Dola Sen (Trinamool), Rajiv Satav, Syed Naseer Hussain and Ripun Bora (Congress), K K Ragesh and Elamaram Karim (CPI-M) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh.

In a letter to Chairman, M Venkaiah Naidu, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh said:
“From the last two days, I am in pain, distress, and in mental agony due to whatever happened on September 20 in the Rajya Sabha. I could not sleep at night. In the name of democracy, violent behaviour was shown by honourable Members from the Opposition. This is a brazen violation and tradition of the Upper House”.

He further said: “The rule book was torn and thrown at me. Some MPs also stood on the table, used unparliamentary language against me. I kept recalling the entire incident that happened in the House and was unable to sleep”.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the letter from Mr Harivansh makes it clear that he was “hurt”.

“A tweet comes from abroad and the drama starts….,” he said in reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. “Never in my career of 25 years, have I seen any member dancing on the table of the House,” Prasad said in reference to conduct of protesting MPs on Sunday.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had tweeted from abroad: “Muting Of Democratic India’ continues: by initially silencing and later, suspending MPs in the Parliament and turning a blind eye to farmers’ concerns on the black agriculture laws”.

The suspended MPs had on Monday refused to leave the Rajya Sabha. A no confidence motion motion against Mr Harivansh was also rejected by Vice President and Chairman of the House,M Venkaiah Naidu.

He also said the members had “physically threatened” his deputy and even abused him.

Mr Modi and his government have strongly defended the passage of agrarian Bills and said these were part of the reform strategies and will help farmers to come out from the control and influence of middlemen.

“Ab desh andaza laga sakta jae ki achanak kuchh logon ko jo dikkat honi shuru hui hae, wohkyon ho rahi hae (Now the country can understand why some people are unhappy that the middlemen have been done away with in the agri sector),” Mr Modi had tweeted on Monday.

Opposition members have accused the Deputy Chairman, Harivansh Singh, of helping the government rush through the contentious bills on Sunday.

Mr Harivansh had rejected their request for sending the bills to a select committee and the confrontation led to chaos when Trinamool Congress floor leader Derek O’ Brien tore up the ‘Rule Book’.

“I am pained at what happened ….It was a bad day for Rajya Sabha,” said chairman Venkaiah Naidu.

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.