NEW DELHI: Congress members on Friday forced a washout of the Rajya Sabha proceedings in the pre-lunch session, causing four adjournments, as they protested the alleged abduction of a Congress MLA by the Gujarat Police.
The Congress alleged that the Gujarat police had abducted its MLA in the state with a view to influence the upcoming elections to the Upper House.
Congress members repeatedly trooped into the Well of the House raising anti-government slogans and charging the BJP with "stealing" MLAs to help its candidates win the Rajya Sabha polls, forcing brief adjournments one after the other and finally till 1430 hours.
As they raised slogans like "stop murder of democracy", members from the treasury benches asked the Congress to "put its own house in order" as its MLAs were quitting the party.
The House was adjourned twice during Zero Hour and then twice again during the Question Hour.
Soon after the House assembled, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien first adjourned the proceedings for 10 minutes as Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress' deputy leader Anand Sharma, raised the issue and the party members stormed the Well raising slogans.
Similar scenes were witnessed when the House met again, forcing Kurien to adjourn the proceedings till noon. A repeat of the protests saw Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House for 15 minutes after it reassembled.
As there was no let-up in the opposition protests, the House was again adjourned till 1430 hours, with Chairman Ansari saying the deputy chairman has said that matters relating to elections are dealt by the concerned agencies.
Azad said he was not raising the issue of three Congress MLAs who had resigned from the party and one of them being immediately named as the BJP candidate for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls.
He said Punabhai Gamit, MLA from reserved constituency of Vyara, after attending district Congress executive committee, had gone for a cup of tea to another MLA's house when district superintendent of police "abducted" him.
Azad alleged that the police officer told the MLA that Congress has decided not to give him a ticket for the upcoming assembly polls. So he should leave the party and join the BJP and he would arrange his meeting with the BJP president and get him the ticket, he claimed.
He said the police officer who had picked up the Congress MLA was the one who was arrested in a fake encounter case. The legislator managed to flee when he asked the police officer to allow him to get a changeover of clothes, he claimed.
"You are stealing MLAs by using the police (to garner votes)," Azad said, adding "You should be ashamed."
The charge was vehemntly denied by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, saying "this is wrong. The Election Commission is conducting free and fair elections."
Earlier, Sharma had raised the issue through a point of order saying that the Constitution was being violated by the ruling BJP which was using the police to "abduct" MLAs.
"They are stealing MLAs," he said, adding that it must be guaranteed that the biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha are free and fair and the "abducted" MLAs released.
Union Minister Parshottam Rupala sought to counter the charge saying it was an internal matter of the Congress whose MLAs, including the leader of the party in the Gujarat assembly, were deserting it.
"Why are you complaining here," he said, adding "You are not taking care of your own house and are accusing us. Your own people are leaving you".
Naqvi said it is the Election Commission's responsibility to hold free and fair elections. "If they have a complaint, they should go to Election Commission. Rajya Sabha is not the place to protest."
Congress is not able "to keep its house in order", Naqvi said, prompting the opposition party MPs to troop into the Well shouting slogans.
"You have to protect the Constitution ... Voters are being kidnapped where do we go," Azad said.
Kurien said the Chair has nothing to do with elections. "If what has been narrated has happened, solution lies elsewhere. You can approach police, you can approach election commission and seek remedy. I have no remedy for this," he said.
He asked protesting members to return to their seats but his pleas went unheeded. "What is the use of obstructing," he asked before adjourning the proceedings for 10 minutes.
When the House reassembled, Anand Sharma again raised the issue of abduction. To this, Kurein asked what could he do.
Azad suggested that the Chair could give a direction to the Election Commission to ensure fair election. He said the officer involved in the incident should be removed.
Kurien, however, said the Election Commission "does not require a direction from the Chair" to conduct free and fair election, as it is bound to do so and "they are doing it. ... If you have a complaint, approach Election Commission."
During the Question Hour, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said things like abduction of an MLA by a police officer was not acceptable and sought the Chair's protection to save democracy.
Naqvi countered him by saying "don't destroy the temple of democracy".
As Congress members trooped into the Well and started slogan-shouting, Naqvi took pot-shots at the main opposition party saying they would also demand a direction to the Surpreme Court as several of their members were involved in "corruption" cases.
Congress would also seek direction to Election Commission as they are losing the elections, the minister said in a sarcastic manner.
Kurien asked the agitated Congress members to return to their seats so that Zero Hour business could be taken.
However, Congress members kept shouting slogans from the well. Kurien adjourned the House till noon.
When the House met at noon, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the proceedings, first briefly for 15 minutes and then till 1430 hours amid continued uproar and sloganeering by the Congress members.