On Wednesday afternoon Prime Minister Narendra Modi replied to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha. After his reply, the Rajya Sabha adopted the Motion of Thanks to President with an amendment moved by the Congress.
Referring to some 300 amendments that have been tabled to the motion of thanks, Modi appealed to the parties to withdraw them and pass the motion unanimously to ensure dignity to the President’s office and in keeping with the high traditions of the House.
However, despite his appeal, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad moved an amendment to president’s address, when it was put to vote, 94 members voted for the amendment and 61 voted against it.
The amendment ‘regretted that the address did not commit support to rights of all citizens to contest Panchayat elections.’ This was in the backdrop of a law in Rajasthan and Haryana where matriculation has been fixed as the criteria for contesting polls.
The Prime Minister, in his speech also referred to the qualification criteria fixed in BJP-ruled Rajasthan and Haryana for those contesting Panchayat polls and said it has been approved by the Supreme Court but attempts are being made to give it a “political colour”.
“There can be difference of opinion…Some say what about those who remained illiterate, the reason for ‘illiteracy’ was the policies followed by government after Independence,” said PM.
He asked Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad to give 33 per cent tickets to totally illiterate people to contest the upcoming Assembly elections in the five states to demonstrate Congress’ commitment in this regard.
Earlier in his reply, the PM made a fresh pitch for the passage of GST and other legislations in the Rajya Sabha considering the “conducive atmosphere” that has been prevailing in Parliament in this session. He thanked the Opposition for letting Parliament function.
PM Modi invoked late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s words to say that Rajya Sabha is a chamber of ideas and there was need for coordination between it and the Lok Sabha because both of them are part of a structure.
“I hope we give importance to Pandit Nehru’s thinking and I hope all pending bills are passed in this session,” the PM said.
Talking about the functioning of Rajya Sabha, Modi said in the past session, out of 169 starred questions, only seven were taken up while 42 hours were wasted because of disruptions. In the session before that, only six questions were taken up and 72 hours were lost in disruptions.
“Now, ministers and officials are forced to make preparations for replying in Parliament. This is the strength of democracy. No words are enough to thank…,” Said Modi.
He also said that ‘Question Hour is a good opportunity for members to keep the government, ministers and the executive on a tight leash and ensure accountability which is greatest strength of democracy.’
In his reply, Modi pressed the need for cooperation between Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, considering the fact that many of the bills passed by the Lower House have got stuck in the Upper House.
“This is the Upper House. When great people move, others follow them… Whatever happens in Rajya Sabha, its impact is felt on Lok Sabha, Assemblies and Municipal Corporations. So we should think how to create an atmosphere by which democracy can be strengthened,” he said.
He then invoked first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to pitch for coordination between the two Houses.
“If there is no coordination and cooperation, then difficulties will increase. Nehru had this concern. Hope we pay attention to Nehru’s concerns and clear all pending bills. There is a good atmosphere. By passage of the bills, the country will get momentum.”
The Motion of Thanks to Presidents speech was moved by BJP member and Health Minister J P Nadda on March 2, 2016 and was seconded by another BJP MP M J Akbar.
(With inputs from PTI)