Amid loud slogan-shouting from the Opposition benches, the Lok Sabha was adjourned after obituary references for the day and the Rajya Sabha for short durations repeatedly, soon after Parliament convened for the 21-day monsoon session on Tuesday.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress’s Anand Sharma raised the Lalit Modi controversy, but when Leader of the House, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, attempted to speak, he was shouted down by Opposition members. The opposition outnumbers the government in the Upper House.
Jaitley indicated that the government was ready to discuss what is being called Lalitgate. “Please start the discussion right now,” the minister offered, but the House was adjourned for half an hour amid din.
Before the session began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck a note of optimism this morning, saying he hoped for cooperation from opposition parties to ensure a productive monsoon session. “We need to make important decisions for India’s progress,” the PM said, reminding the Opposition that it “had spoken earlier of cooperation for key reforms and decisions.”
But the Opposition has other plans. The Congress has promised that there will be frequent disruptions till the BJP’s senior ministers caught in various controversies resign. “The Congress demands that the BJP adopt the same standard and yardstick with regard to ministers that they used to adopt when they were in Opposition,” said Anand Sharma.
The Congress has in particular targeted foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for having helped disgraced cricket boss Lalit Modi, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, besieged by the Vyapam scam.
The BJP has said there will be no resignations, setting the stage for the kind of fireworks witnessed this morning. There have so far been no meetings between opposition and government leaders to break the deadlock, after the all-party meetings held yesterday.
But the government maintains that it is willing to debate all issues. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu also said this morning, “The government has no intention to prevent any debate. We have nothing to hide.” The government has said that Sushma Swaraj is “keen” to make a statement in Parliament on the Lalit Modi controversy.
The BJP alleges that the Congress is isolated among opposition parties in its demand for the ministers’ resignations; other parties have demanded investigations and debates. “Everybody except the Congress wants the House to function peacefully,” said Mr Naidu.
The BJP has crafted an aggressive counter strategy to attack the Congress. “In Kerala the solar scam, US bribes scam, the Assam Government scam, the Uttaranchal scam, all these are issues that have to be discussed,” Mr Naidu said, listing Congress-ruled states.
A senior BJP lawmaker, Shanta Kumar, has embarrassed this party by making public, a letter he wrote to BJP chief Amit Shah asking him to set up an “ethics committee” to look into charges of corruption against its leaders. He said the recent controversies have dented the party’s image.