Congress, government continue to clash inside, outside parliament

New Delhi: The continuing confrontation between the Congress and the government on Thursday saw the main opposition party forcing repeated adjournments in the Rajya Sabha over the National Herald case and a walkout in the Lok Sabha to demand a BJP member's suspension over his "objectionable remarks".

The verbal sparring between the two sides continued for the third day outside parliament as well.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the "answer to the Congress leadership landing up in a 'chakravyuh' (in the National Herald case) is to fight their battle legally and not disrupt parliament", while Congress leader Ashwani Kumar told the media that the government was indulging in a "politics of intimidation" and "assault on liberal values".

With the passage of crucial Goods and Services Tax bill looking increasingly uncertain amid the standoff, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a function here that there were several measures for the poor, other than the crucial GST bill, pending in parliament.

"People only talk about the GST and parliament, but there are several other measures also for the poor that are pending in parliament," Modi said.

In a Facebook post, Jaitley took potshots at the Congress and said "India has never accepted the diktat that the queen is not answerable to the law".

"Why should the Congress and its leaders not contest the notice before the court? The government cannot help them in the matter, nor can the parliament. Why then disturb parliament and prevent the legislative activity from continuing?" he said.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi along with his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will appear in a trial court here on December 19 in connection with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's complaint in the National Herald case.

While Congress staged a walkout for the day in the Lok Sabha and was joined by Trimanool Congress, the Rajya Sabha saw repeated adjournments for the third successive day on Thursday over the National Herald case with the Congress members raising slogans.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien tried to take up the whistle-blowers' protection bill, but could not amid the din.

The Rajya Sabha Bulletin, which informs members about the proceedings and other important issues, named 46 members for disorderly conduct.

The list included the names of E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Ashwani Kumar, Ambika Soni, Kumari Selja, Renuka Chowdhury and a number of other Congress leaders.

Congress members trooped near the chairman's podium shouting slogans soon after the house met for the day and the house saw several adjournments.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said members who were creating ruckus should be sent out of the house.

"I have a request. Those who do not want to let the house function should be allowed to take rest; let them sit outside for some days," Naqvi said, to which Kurien responded: "I agree."

In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader in the house Mallikarjun Kharge sought an apology from BJP member Virendra Singh for making remarks on Wednesday against former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi apart from Rahul Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not allow an adjournment motion by Congress members and said the remarks have since been expunged. As Congress members came near the speaker's podium raising slogans, the house was adjourned for nearly 25 minutes.

Raising the issue after the Question Hour, Kharge alleged that the government seemed to be supporting the BJP member.

"Unless you suspend (the member) or there is an unconditional apology, it will affect the dignity of members. Please suspend him," Kharge said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the Congress members were continually laying siege to the speaker's podium.

He said Congress members had also raised slogans with their back to the prime minister but did not express any regret over their behaviour.

"How long will these double standards continue?"

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said there cannot be two set of rules for the members.

Referring to Wednesday's protests, Biju Janata Dal member Bhartruhari Mahtab said that not only were papers thrown while the deputy speaker was in the chair but his desk too was thumped repeatedly.

The protests in the two houses began after the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the plea of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to quash the summons issued to them regarding their personal appearance by a trial court in the National Herald case.

The trial court, giving relief to the Gandhis from personal appearance on Tuesday, asked them to appear before it on December 19.

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