A day after Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge claimed that Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had left it to the government and Opposition to resolve the stalemate over the suspension of 12 MPs from the House, and that he said he “cannot do anything”, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat Thursday countered the same. It also challenged Kharge’s assertion that the House was repeatedly adjourned at the slightest disturbance.
Without naming Kharge or any other leader, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat regretted the “factually incorrect narrative” on the suspension, blaming the stalemate on “shifting positions” of parties and “lack of agreement” amongst them.
In a statement, the Secretariat said during his talks with “leaders from both the sides” as well as in the House, Naidu had “urged both the sides to resolve the matter amicably through discussion given the stated positions”, even “complimented some members for coming forward to resolve the stalemate… and was in regular contact with them”.
It added, “It is informed that initially it was proposed to the Chairman that the Leader of the Opposition would express regret on behalf of all the 12 suspended Members on the Floor of the House… But subsequently an issue was raised that what if some parties whose members were among the suspended would disagree with LoP in case he expressed regret… The Chairman suggested that the best course would be to talk to all concerned parties before expressing regret for the incidents of August 11… It was even suggested that if all parties concerned were not on board, regret could be expressed on behalf of the parties willing to do so. But nothing happened thereafter.”
The Chairman, the Secretariat said, “even suggested to the Government to move a Motion for termination of suspension in case such a regret was expressed. The precedent of the then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley expressing regret on behalf of 7 Members suspended (no BJP Members suspended) for their misconduct during the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in 2010 also came up for discussions with leaders.”
The Secretariat pointed out that some Opposition parties had also refused to nominate their members on the committee that the Chairman proposed to set up to enquire into the incidents of August 11 that led to suspension of some members.
“From the above, it is evident that the Chairman was actively engaged in resolving the stalemate over the suspension issue but there was no progress due to shifting positions of the concerned and perhaps, due to unwillingness to regret the misconduct of suspended Members and lack of agreement among the concerned parties on regretting the incidents that led to suspension. It is hence, incorrect and misleading on the part of concerned to suggest that the Chairman did not take initiative to resolve the stalemate. The Chairman could not have forced any section of the House to take a particular view in the matter of suspension,” the Secretariat said.
Addressing a press conference Wednesday, Kharge said that he was ready to express regret on behalf of the 12 suspended members but the government was not receptive to the offer. Kharge also criticised the repeated adjournments of the House at, what he called, the slightest disturbance.
Calling Naidu “our guardian”, Kharge said: “But he told us repeatedly that he cannot do anything, that you and the government sort it out. We are fighting, how can we resolve… There should be someone who should mediate… But when he asked him… he says it is between you and the government, and if the government does not agree, what can I do?”
On adjournments of the House, the Secretariat said that soon after assuming office in 2017, Naidu had made it clear that, if in his assessment the intention of the protesting parties and members of the House was clearly to not allow the functioning of the House, he would be left with no option but to adjourn the House.
“(The Chairman’s) intention in doing so was to not present the House in a poor light to the public by highlighting persistent disruptions, since the proceedings of Rajya Sabha are telecast live. The Chairman has been consistent in this regard. It is hence, factually incorrect and misleading to suggest that the Chairman resorted to frequent adjournments during the just concluded Winter Session under some pressure. Casting such aspersions amounts to disrespecting and disregarding the institution of the Chairman of the House,” the Secretariat said.