The government is ready for a debate in Parliament on price rise once Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recovers from COVID-19, the BJP asserted on Wednesday and targeted Rahul Gandhi, saying he may be “unproductive politically” but should not hurt the legislature’s productivity.
Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Pralhad Joshi, and Smriti Irani hit out at opposition parties as both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha saw little transactions for the third straight day due to their protests on the issues of price rises and the imposition of GST on many pre-packaged and labeled food items.
Both Goyal and Joshi noted that it is Sitharaman who will reply to a debate on the matter and asserted that the government is willing for the discussion as demanded by the opposition once she recovers and is back in Parliament.
They refuted the opposition’s charge that the government is running away from a debate and attacked Congress, the largest opposition party.
“The Congress has a destructive attitude towards democracy. It was exposed from Jairam Ramesh’s tweet that the Congress was successful in not allowing the House to function,” Goyal, who is the Leader of House in Rajya Sabha, told reporters outside parliament.
The government is not running away from any debate, he said.
Joshi said Congress is not interested in a constructive debate but in “destructive damage”.
He said the opposition should follow the procedure for having the debate. The Rajya Sabha Chairperson and the Lok Sabha Speaker have also expressed their readiness for the discussion but the opposition should follow the norms, he said.
Earlier in the day, Irani launched a sharp attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his party members’ vociferous protests in Parliament leading to frequent adjournments in both Houses.
“He may be unproductive politically but he should not dare to continuously curb Parliament’s productivity,” she said, alleging that Rahul Gandhi’s political life has been dotted with a show of disrespect to parliamentary procedures and traditions.
He is now adamant to bring down the productivity of Lok Sabha, she told reporters.
As an Amethi MP between 2004 and 2019, he never posed any questions in Parliament and when he “abandoned” the constituency and became the MP of Wayanad, his attendance in Lok Sabha was less than 40 per cent in the winter session in 2019, Irani said.
He has also never proposed any private member’s bill, she added.
Irani had defeated Gandhi in Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The minister also took a dig at him over his frequent foreign visits and said this has become a matter of worry for his own party.
“His political life has been spent disrespecting parliamentary traditions. Now he is dedicating himself to ensuring that parliamentary proceedings and debates do not take place,” she said.
The opposition has demanded the rollback of five percent GST on pre-packaged and labeled food items such as cereals, pulses, and flour weighing less than 25 kg. For a commodity measured in liters like curd and ‘lassi, the limit is 25 liters.
Its members have also highlighted the general rise in prices of different essential commodities. They carried packaged milk, curd, butter, and buttermilk during their protests in both Houses besides banners to highlight their demands.
Goyal pointed out that the ministers of the Congress-ruled states were part of the GST council, which gave the nod for the levy.
Citing the results of local elections in Madhya Pradesh and other states in which the BJP has trounced its rivals, Goyal said they show on whose side the people are.
Objecting to the opposition disrupting important proceedings like the Question Hour, Joshi said the one-hour session in which government ministers are concerned to reply to members’ queries is the “heart” of parliamentary proceedings.
The opposition is depriving MPs of exercising their rights, he alleged, adding, “even Congress MPs are not happy with this.