Opposition’s bid to end Rajya Sabha logjam fails

Venkaiah Naidu rejects request for all-party meeting.

A fresh attempt by the Opposition to find a way out of the impasse in the Rajya Sabha has failed. An opposition delegation met Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday demanding that he arrange a meeting of the two sides. According to informed sources, when Mr. Naidu declined the plea, there was a big showdown and the leaders walked out.

At 11 a.m. when the House met, senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma and P. Chidambaram tried to move a motion to terminate the suspension of 12 MPs. The House was adjourned within six minutes by the Chairman after the Opposition insisted that the motion be taken up.

Following the adjournment, Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge along with Deputy leader Mr. Anand Sharma, Congress chief whip Jairam Ramesh, RJD leader Manoj K Jha and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met Mr. Naidu. The Opposition leaders urged Mr. Naidu to convene an all-party meeting to resolve the 15-day stalemate on the suspension issue.

According to the sources, the Opposition pointed out that Mr. Naidu’s predecessors like Bhairon Singh Shekawat and Hamid Ansari had taken the initiative in the past when faced with similar situations. But Mr. Naidu was unmoved, and said such a meeting would serve no purpose when the suspended members or the leaders of their respective parties were not repentant about their actions and willing to express regret, the sources said. There was a war of words between the two sides and the Opposition delegation walked out in huff.

Pawar’s initiative

It is also learnt that NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar’s attempt to reach out to Mr. Naidu also failed. At a meeting at Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence on Tuesday with the NCP, the Shiv Sena, the CPI(M) and the National Conference, the leaders had urged Mr. Pawar to take the lead to resolve the issue. On Tuesday, Mr. Pawar, according to sources, spoke to Mr. Naidu, but was told that he can do precious little in this case without the suspended members expressing regret.

When the House met at noon, the Congress leaders again pushed for the motion to terminate the suspension. Mr. Sharma, invoking rule 256 (2) of Rajya Sabha rules and procedure, pointed out that the Council might, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated. Mr. Sharma also quoted the example of socialist leader Raj Narain, whose suspension was similarly revoked. But the motion was rejected on technical grounds.

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