Mamata’s absence irks MPs, stalls Lok Sabha’s functioning


New Delhi: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s absence from parliament Tuesday irked opposition MPs, and a few from the ruling benches also, as they demanded a statement on the strike by the motormen of Mumbai’s suburban trains, which was called off later in the day.

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The issue saw tempestuous scenes in the Lok Sabha and allegations being made of the use of intemperate language being used, forcing three adjournments of the house.

When the house eventually resumed at 5.30 p.m., Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa made a brief statement even as Left MP squatted near the speaker’s podium to protest Banerjee’s continued absence. The house then passed two bills – on energy conservation and the education of minorities – by voice vote before adjourning for the day.

In contrast, the Rajya Sabha functioned smoothly though a furious opposition demanded Banerjee’s presence in the house and Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan directed the government to make a statement on the Mumbai strike. Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed eventually did so around 6 p.m.

On her part, Banerjee remained ensconced in her Kolkata residence throughout the day.

Unruly scenes were witnessed in the Lok Sabha when Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay used unparliamentary language against veteran Communist MP Basudeb Acharia during zero hour.

The whole house was stunned for a moment and central ministers Ambika Soni, Pawan Kumar Bansal and other ministers and MPs from the treasury benches tried to pacify Bandyopadhyay.

Protesting the remark against their leader, Left MPs, including Ramachandra Dome, M.B. Rajesh and P.K. Biju, rushed towards the Trinamool MP.

But other opposition members prevented the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MPs from advancing towards Bandyopadhyay. The latter was protectively surrounded by ministers and Congress MPs.

Amid the ruckus, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the house till 2 p.m., the second adjournment Tuesday.

When it resumed, agitating Shiv Sena and Left party members continued the ruckus, forcing Deputy Speaker Karia Munda to adjourn the sitting till 5.30 p.m.

In the Rajya Sabha, Deputy Chairman Khan gave the direction to the government after angry Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members led by Prakash Javadekar and S.S. Ahluwalia raised the motormen’s strike issue during zero hour and protested against Banerjee’s absence from the house.

“There are 25 lakh people sitting on the platforms. There is no water or food for them. We would like the government to take note,” Javadekar said.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the seniormost minister present in the house, then got up to say he would bring the matter to the notice of the minister.

This did not satisfy the BJP and other opposition members, prompting Khan to say: “The matter is serious. You have brought it to the notice of the government. The government will react later in the day.”

“The government should make an immediate statement,” Javadekar contended.

“This is a very serious matter. The government should have made a suo moto statement,” Ahluwalia added.

Khan then brought the curtain down on the issue, saying: “I have already given a direction asking the government to react during the course of the day.”