Goyal being 'fundamentalist': Ramesh on MPs' suspension

Goyal taking fundamentalist position, leaving no room for compromise on MPs' suspension: Jairam Ramesh

Opposition has blamed the Leader of the House Piyush Goyal for the stalemate on suspension of the MPs

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh. Credit: IANS Photo

The suspension of 12 MPs had made the Opposition rise in protest inside and outside Parliament during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. Opposition wants revocation of the "illegal" and "undemocratic" suspension while the government says sans an apology, it is not possible. Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has urged both sides to sit together and resolve the issue. Opposition blames Leader of the House Piyush Goyal for the stalemate. Congress Rajya Sabha Chief Whip Jairam Ramesh spoke to DH's Shemin Joy.

It has been over a week since the suspended MPs are sitting on dharna at Gandhi Statue in Parliament House. Is resolution in sight?

The Chairman (M Venkaiah Naidu) has asked the Leader of the House (Piyush Goyal), Leader of Opposition (Mallikarjun Kharge) and leaders of all political parties to find a way forward. I have met the Chairman myself twice. I have met the Leader of the House on two different occasions as also the Deputy Chairman (Harivansh). We have discussed various options. The Chairman is flexible and I find his position to be not unreasonable. However, the Leader of the House is taking a completely fundamentalist position which does not leave any room for compromise. He says individual MPs must apologise on the floor of the House. We have said from day one that the question of apology does not arise because the action taken to suspend the 12 MPs, as Kharge has explained in a detailed letter to the Chairman dated November 30, is both unconstitutional and illegal because it violates the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Rajya Sabha.

Also read: Talk it out: Naidu to Centre, Opposition on suspension of 12 MPs

So, the impasse is continuing?

The Opposition wants to break the present impasse. To give the Chairman credit and to be absolutely fair, he wants the impasse to be broken. However, the Leader of the House is simply inflexible. I have talked to others in the BJP and they are willing to sit down and talk. The Leader of the House has not even called leaders of parties for a meeting. When Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Hamid Ansari were Chairmen, when they did not take the meeting, they would ask the Leader of the House to convene a meeting. I have requested the Leader of the House to call leaders, hear them out and find a way out. He talks to them casually in Parliament but you need to call a formal meeting. The Chairman also has not called but as I said, I am willing to admit that the Chairman on three occasions has made public calls. I have personally given to the Chairman some alternatives after having a discussion with various party leaders. I have visited many Opposition floor leaders at their homes. But it is not my duty, it is the duty of the Leader of the House to find a way out, a way forward.

Is there a difference of opinion among Opposition parties on how the protest is going? Is it that the Congress wants to wrap up the protest while others are opposed to it?

That's not true. Several Opposition parties have said that we don't want to boycott. The boycott of the whole session was ruled out from day one. The DMK wanted to be in the House raising issues like floods, GST, Dam Safety Bill etc. It is not true to say that only Congress wants to wrap up the protest. Since we are the largest party and since six out of the 12 suspended MPs belong to the Congress, I took the initiative to talk to other Opposition parties to find a way forward. This was prompted by the Chairman's observations made to me privately as well as publicly that leaders should sit together and find a way out. Boycott is not an option. We participated in the debate on the Dam Safety Bill last week. It is not that we don't want to participate. Zero Hour, Question Hour have functioned. I was anguished and pained that our MPs could not participate in the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill and Surrogacy Bill on Wednesday. But we decided collectively that we should at least one day sit in protest. Basic point is the Chairman wants to find a way out. Opposition wants to find a way out. But the Leader of the House is simply not interested. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi is simply not interested.

Also Read — MPs’ suspension cause for disquiet

Is the Congress and Opposition thinking of collectively expressing regret and getting the suspension revoked?

I can't tell you what shape the final formula will take. We are looking at various options. But the question of an unqualified apology does not arise. That has been rejected by all parties. It does not arise.

Is expressing regret an option?

Let's see. There are some options. I have discussed it with the Chairman. I have discussed it with Opposition parties. This is not my decision. It is not the Congress decision. The decision has to be taken by all. We are discussing with AAP, SP etc. Though the Trinamool Congress is sitting with us at present, it has declared itself autonomous of the Opposition. I cannot speak on behalf of Trinamool. I find the Chairman flexible, I find all the Opposition parties wanting to participate in the proceedings. But the Leader of the House is taking a fundamentalist position. In a compromise, all parties have to move a little.

Also read: Suspension of 12 MPs: Opposition Rajya Sabha members to sit on Dharna

What is the way out?

To me, the first step is that the Leader of the House should call the leaders of all parties. Let him call an all party meeting. If he does not want to call, let (Defence Minister) Rajnath Singh, who heads the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) call it. That is the first step. It is not my job to talk to parties. It is the job of the Leader of the House. This is the collapse of the leadership of the House. This is not a collapse of the leadership of Opposition. This is unbridled arrogance on the part of the Leader of the House. He has to call because if we call a meeting, the Trinamool Congress will not come. That is the reality.

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