Mayawati's resignation, Opposition barbs set the tone for Parliament's Monsoon Session
The interregnum between the Budget Session and the Monsoon Session of Parliament was not a promising period for the Opposition. Consensus over the Opposition's joint presidential candidate was elusive and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar's decision to support the NDA's candidate caused a rupture. CBI raids against RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family and Kumar's subsequent silence on the raids pushed their alliance in Bihar to the brink.
However, just the first day of proceedings of the Monsoon Session has indicated that the Opposition may be getting its mojo back. Both houses were not able to transact any business amid Opposition fury. The Rajya Sabha was especially rocky with three rounds of adjournments and serious statements made by Opposition leaders.
The day began in the Upper House with the Opposition demanding a discussion on rising incidents of atrocities against Dalits and minorities. Presiding officer P J Kurien appeared reluctant to allow any discussion for which the Chair had received no advance notice. He, however, did relent after seeing senior leaders in the Opposition on their feet and allowed BSP chief Mayawati to speak but asked her to stick to three minutes.
Mayawati repeatedly appealed to the Chair that three minutes will not be sufficient but she did not get an extension.
She walked out of the House in protest against not being allowed to raise the issues of Dalits. The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister dropped a bombshell later outside the House when she announced that she will quit the Rajya Sabha in protest.
Mayawati later told reporters that there was no point in her being a member of Parliament if she could not raise the issues of the downtrodden there. She submitted her resignation to the Chairman soon after.
After Mayawati, it was the Congress' turn.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad picked up the baton and told the Chair that the several lynchings that had taken place in the recent past needed to be discussed. He went on to air a stinging critique of the government, wondering whether the BJP had got the mandate in elections to lynch and massacre Dalits and minorities. Lodging a strong protest, he led the Congress in staging a walkout.
It was then left to CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to take the government on. Yechury too protested that the Opposition wasn't being allowed to raise critical matters of Dalits, minorities and farmers.
In Parliament, govt dodging serious problems facing us today. Attacks on Dalits & minorities are on the rise. No help for beseiged farmers pic.twitter.com/dRrZcYXIVa— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) July 18, 2017
Later in the day, Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien and Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agrawal too raised the issues of the lynchings.
Agrawal also raised the fact that this was one of the shortest Monsoon Sessions ever and it was worrying that sittings of the House were declining steadily. Ministers did try to tell the Chair that they were ready for a discussion on any subject but the Opposition was so riled up, protests and slogans in the well continued.
The Chair was eventually forced to adjourn the House for the day, with a clear indication of the way the session was headed.
It is exactly this kind of situation that the government dreads and this is a key reason why it has nominated senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu as the next Vice President of India.
As Chairman Rajya Sabha, Naidu will be expected to soften the blow of the Opposition in the Upper House and allow the government to continue with routine legislative work.
However, that day is still a little far away and the government will have to wait. For now, things don't look promising for the government for the rest of the Monsoon Session.