Emergency, poaching of MPs resonate in RS debate

Emergency, Money Bill, poaching of Rajya Sabha MPs from other parties and politicisation of Governor's office resonated in a debate as Rajya Sabha sat for a special sitting to mark its journey to the 250th session since its inception.

Advocating ten suggestions to improve Rajya Sabha functioning, Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday urged all members of the Rajya Sabha to do some soul searching saying "all is not well".

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that Rajya Sabha is “second House not secondary House”, leaders from Opposition recalled how the Rajya Sabha was bypassed when bills like Adhaar were passed as a money bill by Lok Sabha during his government by-passing the Upper House.

BJP members cornered the Congress reminding how the same Rajya Sabha has endorsed the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975.

Members also suggested that equal representation should be given to states during the debates and time limit to speak in debates should be scrapped as it undermines the role of smaller parties and independents.

At a time when the Modi government has a brute majority in Lok Sabha, Opposition leaders also underlined the importance of Rajya Sabha as an institution that “balances power”.

After more than four-hour-long debate, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu flagged the concern over repeated disruptions in the House and asked: “are we contributing to enhancing the standing of this august institution by our words and deeds both within the House and outside?".

Recent lock stock and barrel desertions of MPs from Rajya Sabha from other parties to BJP (the most four of six TDP MPs joining BJP), was raised by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh who expressed concern over ““enforced migration”, while Trinamool Congress’ Sukhendu Sekhar Roy raised the issue of politicization of the office of Governor with reference to role of West Bengal Governor.

“What is happening in our state, the governor says anything at any time If you want to do politics, do politics, but do not become a "Rajneetipal" from "Rajyapal" (governor)" he said.

Leaders from both Congress and BJP accused each other of undermining the role of Select Committee during their respective tenures at the Centre and BJP’s Bhupendra Yadav, in particular, talked about abrupt midnight ending of the session in Rajya Sabha, when Hamid Ansari was the Chairman, leading to expiration of the Lokpal Bill due to passing of deadline in December 2011.

There were also demands like having at least 100-days business of Rajya Sabha and promoting voices independent from party line by Rajya Sabha members for healthy merit-based debates.

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