RS adopts Opposition amendment

The government on Tuesday faced a major embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha where an Opposition-backed amendment on the Centre’s failure to bring back black money stashed abroad was adopted by the House as the treasury benches were defeated hands down.

The Opposition unity was on display as the amendment proposing a change to the government’s motion of thanks to the President’s address received 118 votes as against only 57 votes that the government could muster.

At the moment, the BJP (46) and its allies–Shiv Sena (3), Akali Dal (1), TDP (6), RPI-Athawale (1) and Nagaland People’s Front (1)–have only 58 seats in the Rajya Sabha as against the Opposition’s 183 seats in a House of 245 with four vacancies.

The Congress is the single largest party with 67 members. Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury pushed for a division on the amendment after 14 hours of debate that ended with a speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who outlined the NDA government’s achievements in the last nine months.

Responding to allegations on the government’s failure to bring back black money, Modi said had the UPA government set up the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2011 as per a Supreme Court directive, the process would have started by now. “The SIT was not formed because somebody was to be saved,” Modi added. The prime minister left the House soon after delivering the speech.

This House regrets that the President’s address does not mention the failure of the government to curb high-level corruption and to bring back black money, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari said incorporating the Opposition-backed change in the motion of thanks.

While Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu requested Yechury not to press for a vote, the Left leader said he would not have done so under normal circumstances, but was compelled to do so as he was not given an opportunity to ask questions to the prime minister, who criticised three decades of Left rule in West Bengal for the state’s poor economic conditions. 

Alluding to Naidu’s request, Ansari said what the minister mentioned was a convention, but if a member wanted to exercise his right ignoring the norms, the Chair cannot prevent it. Yechury said he would like to press for a division.

This is the fourth time in the history of the Rajya Sabha that an amendment moved by the Opposition to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address has been passed.

The fist such instance was on January 30, 1980, during the Janata Party rule, then on December 29, 1989, during the V P Singh-led National Front government and the third instance was on March 12, 2001, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was in power.

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