Government

Parliament Diary: A Missing Invitation, a Flight to Catch

The Wire brings you a breakdown of what’s going on in parliament – up front and behind the scenes.

(Clockwise from left) Ahmed Patel, Arun Jaitely, Sharad Yadav and Hamid Ansari have all been part of the discussions. Credit: PTI

(Clockwise from left) Ahmed Patel, Arun Jaitely, Sharad Yadav and Hamid Ansari have all been part of the discussions. Credit: PTI

The fallout between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav is becoming more serious by the day. Yadav is unhappy with Nitish’s decision to align with the BJP and form a coalition government with the saffron brigade in Bihar. Two days ago, Sharad Yadav voted with the opposition in the Rajya Sabha against the NDA.

It has now been learnt that Nitish has written to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari removing Yadav from his post as JD(U) chief in the Upper House. It is expected that more MPs will leave with Yadav once there is a split.

For the moment, Yadav is keeping mum and refusing to divulge his plans. But close confidantes of the leader in Patna say that he is planning to float his own party. He is also likely to tour Bihar from August 9 and join opposition parties in the Sanjhi Virasat programme on August 17.

Ansari is unlikely to act upon the Nitish letter, say sources, since his term is all but over. It will be left to the new chairman to take a call on the matter.

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Speaking of Ansari, the fact that he was not invited to the inaugural of the new parliament annexe building, which was inaugurated by the prime minister just yesterday, has raised eyebrows. The new building has come up in the parliament house compound.

The Rajya Sabha secretary general has written a letter to the speaker of the Lok Sabha asking why Ansari was not invited. The building is as much a part of the Lok Sabha as it is the Rajya Sabha, and the decision to ignore the outgoing Rajya Sabha chairman and the deputy chairman has not gone down well with opposition parties. They say that such behaviour and actions do not augur well for democracy and smacks of complete authoritarianism. In terms of protocol, it is the vice president who is more senior than the speaker Lok Sabha.

The speaker is hosting a farewell dinner for the vice president this evening, which, interestingly, is not being attended by leader of the house Arun Jaitley.

The tradition is that the chairman attends house sessions only for question hour, and if the prime minister is speaking. But there is a great deal of speculation that with Venkaiah Naidu in the chair, he may be spending more time in the there running the house than many of his predecessors.

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The new vice president of India will be elected on August 5, a Saturday. Shiv Sena MPs, who are keen to leave Delhi at the earliest, have booked themselves on the 11:30 am flight back to Mumbai on Saturday morning. They reckon they will arrive early – be the first in the queue, vote and then quickly leave for the airport to catch their flight.

But much to their astonishment, they have been informed by parliament house staff that no MP will be allowed to vote till Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast his vote.

In probably the first decision of this kind ever, the prime minister has directed that he will be the first to cast his vote and other MPs will be able to vote only after him. It is not clear whether this is because this is the first time that the BJP is getting a vice president of its own.

The Shiv Sena MPs are livid. They do not known when the prime minister will come to vote. If he is delayed, they will miss their flight. The angry MPs are planning to take up the matter with the concerned decision makers.

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Treasury benches in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are chock full of MPs ever since they got a dressing down from the prime minister and the BJP president. We’re now seeing full attendance; one MP who is normally not present admitted that he has made it a point to be present in the house and central hall.

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Interestingly, the BJP leadership has also had a change of heart over bringing in NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections.

Amit Shah has apparently told senior BJP leaders that the party should oppose the move, after the Congress created a big issue around it and approached the Supreme Court. “The shoe can pinch on the other foot also,” said a leader, suggesting that things do not remain the same forever.

Much of the discussion in parliament was over Ahmed Patel and the desperation with which the BJP is trying to defeat him. The raids on a senior Congress leader and minister from Karnataka D.K. Shiv Kumar, using the CRPF, was the talk of MPs both from the ruling party and the opposition.

Arun Jaitley said in the House that Shiv Kumar was seen tearing papers when the IT sleuths entered his room at the resort where the Gujarat MLAs are staying to ‘escape’ being poached by the BJP. Jaitley said that no attempt was made to either enter the rooms of these MLAs or to speak to them.

But the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a senior leader from Karnataka, said that Arun Jaitley was being ‘economical’ with the truth. He said that according to his information, at least four MLAs were approached and spoken to, and the investigators entered their rooms.

When the media wanted to know whether a privilege motion would be moved against Jaitley, Kharge and Jairam Ramesh said this was not the first time that Jaitley had skirted the truth.

The Ahmed Patel saga is likely to continue, since the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat are still six days away. They are to be held on August 8.

Renu Mittal is an independent journalist.