NEW DELHI: Dramatic scenes played out in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday soon after agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar started replying to the debate on the controversial farm bills.
All social distancing and Covid-19-related precautions were violated as opposition members climbed the chairman’s podium, yanked his mic, tore official papers and heckled the presiding officer as they opposed the government’s push to pass the two bills without considering their demand to refer them to a House committee.
Pandemonium prevailed after deputy chairman Harivansh overruled opposition pleas to postpone Tomar’s reply till Monday as the scheduled sitting time of the House was over. MPs from Congress, TMC, DMK and Left parties stormed the well. Congress’s Rajeev Satav and AAP’s Sanjay Singh climbed the House table and were pulled down by additional security forces called in to stand guard.
As the security detail formed a human chain around the House table to prevent MPs from climbing it, amid uproarious scenes, the RS passed the two contentious farm bills through voice vote.
The disruption began soon after Harivansh allowed the House to be extended. Leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded that the reply to the debate be postponed for Monday. He cited precedent to say consensus should guide the decision on extending the House.
As Harivansh put the motion to refer the bills to a select committee to vote, the sloganeering opposition MPs rushed into the well. The motions were negated through a voice vote even as its movers sought division of votes.
As the chair took clause-by-clause passage of the bills, Derek O’Brien of TMC and some other opposition members climbed onto the podium showing the rulebook to Harivansh. Slogan-shouting members also tried to heckle the presiding officer who was protected by House marshals. The latter also tried to save the mics.
The deputy chairman’s pleas citing the coronavirus and the importance of social distancing failed to deter members who kept shouting slogans. The mics installed in the House were muted and a few minutes later, the proceedings were adjourned for around 15 minutes.
The same scenes played out after the House resumed and at least one member climbed on the table of officials. On the demand for division of votes, Harivansh said a division could not be sought from the well of the House and asked the members to return to their seats. As per procedure, lobbies have to be cleared for enabling electronic voting on a legislation.
As the chaos continued, the deputy chairman put the two bills to vote and they were approved through voice vote.
Despite the adjournment, protesting MPs lingered with their protests inside the RS chamber. This had a trickle-down effect on the proceedings of the Lok Sabha, which were scheduled to begin at 3pm, and whose members also sit in the RS chamber in light of the Covid physical-distancing protocols.