New Delhi: For the fifth day in succession, a united opposition led by Congress today created turmoil in Rajya Sabha demanding a reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on forcible religious conversions, leading to two adjournments before lunch.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad made a forceful demand that Modi should reply to a debate on the controversy but the government’s stand was unchanged that it is ready for a discussion and the concerned minister will reply.
This led to slogan shouting opposition members trooping into the Well, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the proceedings till noon.
Azad, who had been away from the House for most part of the session to campaign for Jammu and Kashmir polls, said religious conversion by force or allurement of money, ration card or BPL card is not only unconstitutional but also unlawful and criminal offence.
He said the reception Prime Minister receives when he goes abroad is because he represents the 125-crore multi-religion country.
In past when there was doubts that he did not represent all sections, he was not welcome in foreign land with some countries imposing restrictions, he said.
Modi during general elections asked for votes for himself and not even for his party – BJP, he said. He won the mandate on the plea that he will be answerable if the people of the country empower him, Azad said.
“Unhone dard diya hai, toh dawa bhi woh hi denge (he gave pain, now he will give remedy),” he said, adding Modi should give confidence to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others that they are “not just safe in the country but also their religion is safe.”
He said the Opposition is not asking Modi to stand on the street and apologise but is only asking him to learn from leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and respect the House, come to Rajya Sabha and listen to the debate and reply to it.
Azad said the Prime Minister should come to Parliament and allay people’s apprehensions. “The Prime Minister and BJP will benefit most as his silence is being seen as his and his party’s support (to religious conversations).”
“Instill confidence that this government will protect people from all religions,” he said.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said Azad can say whatever he wants to during debate on the issue, a resolution for which was accepted yesterday.
“I will start the debate if he (Modi) comes and replies,” Azad insisted.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said government is ready for a debate and it should be taken up without conditions.
Congress and other Opposition members then trooped into the Well shouting slogans demanding that Prime Minister should come to the House.
As members from treasury benches shouted to counter the opposition, Kurien adjourned the House till noon.
Earlier, on a point of order raised by Naresh Agarwal (SP), Kurien said the motion for discussion was moved under rule 267 and allowed.
The rule, he said, does not stipulate for a particular minister or Prime Minister coming and replying. “Government is bound to listen to the discussion and concerned minister is to reply to it,” Kurien said.
Agarwal said rule 259 gives all rights to the Chair, including asking the Prime Minister to reply.
V Hanumantha Rao (Cong) said Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had at a press conference charged him with using unparliamentary language against the Prime Minister while protesting on the issue in the House earlier this week.
I never used any unparliamentary language against Prime Minister… please see the records and put things straight. It is a question of my character,” he said.
“I have got respect for Prime Minister and I did not make any such remark. You can see the record,” he said.
Anand Sharma (Cong) said what Naidu had said was serious and the Chair should protect the member.
Naqvi then said, “No one has said anything… regarding you, no one has said anything inside or outside the House.”
Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong) said Kurien had yesterday promised to examine the records and come back to the House.
Kurien said he cannot do anything about what Naidu had stated outside the House.
“I am at loss to understand the position. If Naidu had said something against him inside the House, I can expunge it… if something has been said outside, what can I do? He (Rao) can reply outside,” he said.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) wanted Naidu to come to the House and clarify on the issue.
Kurien said Rao should give notice with all documents. “It will be examined and proceeded according to the law.”
Similar scenes were seen when the House reassembled for the Question Hour with Opposition demanding presence of the Prime Minister during discussion on the “secular fabric of the country” and give reply.
Chairman Hamid Ansari’s plea for having the Question Hour “for a change” went unheeded as P Rajeev (CPI-M) said the nature of discussion warranted Prime Minister’s presence and a reply from him only.
Derek O’Brien (Trinamool) asked as to why the Prime Minister was “shying away from the House; he should be in the House.”
D Raja (CPI) also wondered, “What is preventing the Prime Minister to come to the House and reply?”
The Chair tried to pacify the Opposition saying that as per the rule, if the reply to the discussion by the minister concerned was not satisfactory, only then Prime Minister could intervene. “Why are we jumping to that stage?” he asked.
Anand Sharma (Cong) said the request of the Opposition was rejected by the government “arrogantly”.
To this Naqvi said the Opposition cannot insist as to who would reply.
As the din continued, Ansari adjourned the House till 2:30 PM.