MPs’ suspension: Opposition may urge Naidu to break impasse after Sonia Gandhi meet

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New Delhi Senior Opposition leaders such as Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar may collectively urge Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu to take the initiative to end the logjam in the House over the suspension of 12 MPs, a meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided on Tuesday.

According to people familiar with the developments, the leaders may also point out to Naidu how his predecessor, Hamid Ansari, often took the lead to end such logjams during his tenure.

The strategy on the opposition’s way forward in the Upper House, besides the upcoming assembly elections in several states, was decided at a key meeting of leaders of five parties at Gandhi’s residence here.

Besides Sonia and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and Kharge and Pawar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader TR Balu, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and Congress general secretary (organization) KC Venugopal were present at the meeting.

At the meeting, Yechury pointed out Ansari’s role in a marathon logjam in 2015 over the passage of legislations. “In such cases, it is always the chairman who takes the lead to bring the House in order,” Yechury was quoted as saying by one of the persons cited above.

The Upper House has been reeling under frequent disruptions and protests during the ongoing winter session, ever since 12 opposition MPs were suspended on November 29 for their unruly behaviour in the last session.

While opposition parties have demanded the suspension be revoked, the government has sought an apology from the concerned MPs in this regard.

Condemning the government’s move, Sonia said such a situation is unheard of. Rahul, meanwhile, remained insistent that the matter be solved by the government and that there is no question of any apology from the suspended members.

Yechury maintained that the solution to the impasse has to come from the Rajya Sabha chairman.

When Yechury said that opposition leaders should meet Naidu and seek his intervention, Kharge said he had met the House chairman two to three times in the last 10 times but no development took place.

The leaders decided that along with Kharge, senior leaders such as Pawar would meet Naidu — possibly on Wednesday — to tell him that the chairman always has always taken the lead to resolve acrimonious matters, the people cited above said.

Besides the MPs’ suspension, the opposition leaders also discussed the upcoming assembly elections and insisted that their goal would be to maximise the Opposition votes in the poll-bound states through co-operation and strategic pacts.

Seven states are slated to go to the polls next year.

A senior opposition leader described Tuesday’s meeting as a follow-up of the mega opposition meeting chaired by Sonia on August 20.

This time, a smaller meeting was favoured keeping in mind the growing rift between the Congress and Trinamool Congress, after the latter poached several lawmakers and senior leaders and attacked the former in recent months.

“If you call all opposition parties and Mamata Banerjee (TMC chief) does not attend, the media headlines would scream that Mamata boycotted the Congress-led opposition. And if we don’t invite her, the headlines would suggest opposition boycotts Mamata. It’s a tricky situation both ways,” a senior Congress leader said, seeking anonymity.

The Congress indicated that Sonia may call for a few more rounds of such small meetings to discuss urgent issues with other opposition parties again.

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