Congress MPs add to Telangana chorus, Lok Sabha disrupted (Roundup)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NEW DELHI - Noisy scenes led to repeated disruptions of the Lok Sabha Wednesday as some members, including from the ruling Congress, shouted slogans demanding that the government table a bill for creating separate Telangana state.

While the Lok Sabha witnessed chaos, peace prevailed in the Rajya Sabha as the upper house functioned normally according to schedule.

In the lower house, the chaos started after Congress members from the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh shouted for separate statehood. They were soon joined by members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

A day after peaceful proceedings, the house witnessed three adjournments till 2 p.m.

TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, his colleague M. Vijaya Shanthi and the TDP’s Ramesh Rathod repeatedly walked towards the presiding officer’s podium to shout slogans and press for an adjournment motion.

Congress members Poonam Prabhakar, M. Jagannath, G. Vivekanand, Madhu Goud Yaskhi and Sarvey Satyanarayana were heard shouting “Jai Telangana” from their seats.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is not an elected member of the Lok Sabha, was attending the sitting, Speaker Meira Kumar tried to convince the protesting members that the issue could be raised during zero hour.

When MPs persisted with their noisy protests, the speaker adjourned the house barely 10 minutes after the day’s sitting began at 11 a.m. for the crucial question hour.

Members returned to the house at 11.30 a.m., and so did noise.

Leader of Opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sushma Swaraj intervened and demanded that the government bring a bill during the budget session to solve the protracted issue that has incited violence in Telangana.

She said the issue was too important to be ignored as life in the region has been paralysed for the second day over the demand for a bill for the formation of Telangana state.

“Why are the ruling MPs shouting slogans? This is because everything in Telangana is stuck, employees are on a pen-down strike… Nothing is working there and if anything functions, that is rubber bullets,” she said.

The BJP leader said the matter could be “resolved right away if the prime minister promises that the Telangana bill will be brought to parliament in the ongoing budget session”.

“We will get the bill passed with our members supporting it,” she thundered, as protests grew louder forcing another disruption till noon.

The chaos returned when the house re-assembled at 12, and the speaker adjourned the house again till 2 p.m. after Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy failed in his attempts to calm tempers.

However, there were no protests after 2 p.m. as the house continued with its debate on the motion of thanks on President Pratibha Patil’s address to the joint session Monday.

The TRS chief later told reporters outside parliament that his party would “continue to disrupt the house” till the government promises a timeframe to form Telangana state.

“The prime minister was present in the house, but he remained a silent spectator to our agitation. It is very unfortunate,” he said.

In the Rajya Sabha, the day was comparatively peaceful.

The issue of corruption and 2G scam dominated the debate on the presidents speech.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury blamed the government for failing to collect money from defaulting companies in the 2G spectrum scam, saying that the money could have been used in funding welfare schemes.

Congress member Rajiv Shukla countered the charges, suggesting that the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the 2G spectrum scam should probe into allocation of spectrum since 1998, when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power. He also called for a probe in the disinvestment policies of the NDA government.

But there was a brief disruption in the morning as some Left party members raised the price rise issue in the light of trade unions’ march to Parliament House Wednesday.

The march was against “steep rise in the prices of essential commodities, rampant violation in implementation of labour laws, plight of unorganised workers, and reckless contractorisation of employees.”

The communist MPs were, however, pacified by Chairman M. Hamid Ansari and the question hour proceeded normally.

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