National

Rajya Sabha to discuss Gaza situation on Monday

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on July 17, 2014

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari

Govt relents as House Chairman goes strictly by the book

The Government was caught in a catch-22 situation when Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari ruled on Thursday against the request of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that a discussion on the Gaza situation not be allowed.

Countering the reservations raised by the Minister against a short-duration discussion on the “unprecedented spurt in violence in Gaza and West Bank area of Palestine causing the death of scores of civilians,” the Chairman stood by his decision to admit the notices by Opposition members.

The Government has finally relented in a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee and a discussion is slated for Monday.

The Chair, however, did not allow the Opposition’s demand that the discussion should take place on Thursday itself.

Clarifying the position, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said in the House the list of business is prepared with the consultation of the Government and the consultation is taken as consent. The Government was not willing for a debate on Thursday, he said.

Kurien explained that the list of business is day-specific and so yesterday’s business cannot be considered today.

He further said on both the occasions — Wednesday and Thursday — the Government was consulted but only on Wednesday it consented. A senior source in Parliament said the whole issue was unprecedented and it happened because of the stand taken by Swaraj.

Academic issue

“This has now become an academic issue. The Government expressed its unwillingness to allow a discussion on the floor of the House. This has not happened in the history of Indian Parliament. It has now been proved that no discussion can take place in Parliament without the consent of the executive, the Government. It is an unprecedented situation created by the External Affairs Minister,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. He added that the Chair had to walk a tightrope to protect its own dignity.

Unprecedented event

“No one in the history might have gone through the situation. The careful handling of the situation by the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman protected the legislature from further embarrassment,” the source said, adding that Swaraj could have saved both the Government and the House from embarrassment if she had responded to the Opposition’s request for a debate.

“She could have repeated what she had said in the Lok Sabha. No one could have forced her to make a certain statement on a certain issue. But her nod for the debate could have avoided such an unprecedented situation in the history of Indian Parliament,” the source said.

Earlier, the Chairman said the rules quoted by Swaraj were related to motions on matters of public importance and not to the short-duration discussion which was listed.

Published on July 17, 2014

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