Opposition cold to a panel on ruckus in House

New Delhi: After the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) turned down the Rajya Sabha secretariat’s request for joining a proposed inquiry committee to investigate the ruckus during the last monsoon session of Parliament, all eyes are on non-Congress and non-Bharatiya Janata Party outfits as their participation will be crucial to maintain the “neutral” character of the panel, according to officials aware of the matter.

While the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) are “certain” to join the probe panel, “it is important for parties like the BJD or TRS to join the proposed panel. Otherwise, it might look like an all-NDA affair. Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu also wants it to be an impartial probe involving as many parties as possible,” a senior functionary said on condition of anonymity.

But the second-largest opposition party, the Trinamool Congress, isn’t likely to be invited to the panel. “The complaints are primarily against TMC MPs. So, it is felt that other parties barring the TMC should be invited,” said another functionary, adding that the MPs in question would be given “enough opportunities” to defend themselves, if the panel is finally formed.

On the last day of the monsoon session, chaos erupted in the Rajya Sabha as Opposition MPs protested against the government’s push for the general insurance amendment bill, which, according to many Opposition leaders, would pave the road for privatisation of public insurance firms.

A committee was proposed to investigate the disruption that took place in the Upper House on August 11, when some opposition MPs got into a scuffle with the marshals. At least two marshals submitted a written account of their injuries to the Chairperson. Two women MPs of the Congress, Phulo Devi and Chayya Varma, also alleged being manhandled in the ruckus that broke out on the floor of the House.

But Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge rejected the proposal of joining the probe panel and wrote to Naidu, saying that the investigation committee seemed like a “design to intimidate MPs into silence”.

In his letter, Kharge said the proposed inquiry committee will “…not only suppress the voices of the people’s representatives but deliberately brush aside all those that are uncomfortable to the government”.

The government has blamed the Opposition for disrupting Parliament, deviating from parliamentary procedure and damaging House property despite the assurance that discussion on issues raised by the Opposition would be taken up.
Derek O’Brien, the Trinamool Congress floor leader in the Rajya Sabha, said: “Since the government is running away from the hard questions on Pegasus, and there are still no answers, will an inquiry committee be set up to expose how this government murders parliamentary democracy?”

An investigation by a consortium of media houses has alleged that phone hacking software Pegasus was used to target potentially thousands of people around the world, including Indian citizens.