INTERVIEW| Government was ready, Opposition did not allow debate: Union minister Pralhad Joshi


Express News Service

HUBBALLI: Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi held opposition parties responsible for the washout of the monsoon session of Parliament, and specifically pointed out some Trinamool Congress and Congress members for creating a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha.

While advocating punishment for MPs who behave in an unruly manner, Joshi said he will continue to talk with “sane and sensible opposition leaders” for smooth functioning of Parliament. Excerpts from Joshi’s interview:

The monsoon session was a complete washout with continuous disruptions. Did the treasury bench fail to reach out to the opposition for smooth conduct of the House?

I don’t agree that the session was a complete washout. Several bills were passed and amendments brought to the Constitution. Parties such as BJD, TRS, YSRCP and others took part in discussions and passing of bills.

Lok Sabha deputy leader Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to opposition leaders for smooth conduct of the Houses. Rajya Sabha leader Piyush Goyal and I were also holding talks with them. The government was ready to discuss every issue, including the COVID situation and vaccination, farm laws and economic situation, as they demanded.

Even on the Pegasus issue, the government made a suo motu statement, but a TMC member misbehaved with the IT minister. The intention of the opposition was quite clear: not to allow the Houses to function. It was clear right from the first day. 

Opposition leaders are recalling how Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj would manage floor coordination. Did you fail in your duty in holding an uninterrupted session?

When they were in charge of floor coordination, the opposition used to behave responsibly. They respected Atalji’s government. But after 2014, the behaviour of the opposition has changed.

They are not ready to digest the mandate given to the NDA-BJP government in 2019. If they are not in agreement with the policies and programmes of the government, let them go to the people on these issues. 

Why did the Prime Minister not call an all-party meeting to end the logjam?

Earlier, no Prime Minister would attend the all-party meeting before the session. PM Modi started this tradition and at the meeting before the monsoon session, he made it clear that discussions and debates are necessary before the passing of any bill.

But some opposition leaders tried to disrupt that meeting also. As floor leader, Modi deputed Singh and Shah to break the logjam. This is the practice being followed for 72 years.

Will you initiate action against the MPs responsible?

The government has taken it quite seriously, and allegations by opposition parties that marshals manhandled the MPs is obnoxious. We will appeal to the Rajya Sabha chairman to hold an inquiry by a separate committee.

I am not blaming the entire opposition for the ruckus on August 9, but the unruly behaviour of 10-12 members of the TMC and a few Congress MPs. 

Both treasury and opposition benches are adamant. What is the way forward?

We will inquire into the Rajya Sabha incident and ensure punishment for the persons responsible, to send a clear signal. The Modi government believes in debate and discussion and is ready to create a congenial atmosphere in the Houses. There are sensible leaders in the opposition, I will hold talks with them.

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