Speaker Om Birla retorted sharply and asked the Congress leader whether he was desirous of showing the public scenes of unruly protests and persistent disruption by opposition MPs. Chowdhury, however, persisted with his allegations, demanding that the “blackout” be stopped and said Parliament belonged not only to the government, but equally to opposition parties.
Protests, which have included waving of placards and slogan shouting, have not been shown on TV by order of successive Speakers, including those when UPA was in office.
Chowdhury said, “There is digital discrimination. Whatever the government says and does comes on television. Everyone is a stakeholder in the House. Whatever we do is being blacked out. The blackout should stop. The camera should focus on everyone.”
Incidentally, Congress MPs were in the well at that point, demanding a rollback of fuel and LPG prices, as well as a discussion on the subject. Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi, endorsing the Speaker’s comments, said the opposition wanted the country to see Parliament in disarray.
Vociferous protests by opposition parties against rise in fuel prices led to repeated adjournments of Rajya Sabha as well, which consequently failed to transact any substantial business.
Congress, BSP, DMK, Shiv Sena and Left parties demanded suspension of regular business for a discussion on the record high prices of petrol and diesel as soon as proceedings began in the upper House at 11 am.
With Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu having already disallowed the notice moved by leader of opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, deputy chairman Harivansh said the ruling could not be “reopened” as per rules.
But the slogan-shouting opposition members persisted with their demand, with some of them even trooping into the well, leading to the first adjournment till noon. The House was then adjourned till 2 pm amid continuing uproar.
After lunch, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stressed on the need to take up the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2021, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha and seeks to replace an ordinance.
Senior Congress member Anand Sharma, however, said as per tradition, no government bill should be taken up when the opposition was demanding a discussion on an important issue.
“The opposition has a right to take up the issue,” he said. With the opposition showing no signs of relenting, the deputy chairman adjourned the House for the day.