Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien on Sunday said the clarification issued by the government about the chain of events which occurred during passage of the contentious farm bills in the Rajya Sabha on September 20 were ‘farcical’. He added that video evidence obtained by various media organisations ‘shredded’ the centre’s version, instead.
Media reports claim the government’s stance on the rules not being followed during the voting in bills in Rajya Sabha on September 20 are discrepant with the television footage of the proceedings.
Solid investigation by reputed journalists, backed by video footage and irrefutable evidence, have left this shameless govt scurrying to find cover through lies. Read their farcical ‘clarification’ re events in Rajya Sabha! The video of Farm Bill vote shreds government’s version
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 27, 2020
During a debate on the bills, O’Brien had rushed to the Well of the house to protest against them. Reports at the time claimed he had attempted to tear the rule book in front of Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh over the demand for a division of vote. Singh and the government have claimed that the demands for opposition for physical voting were negated as the members were not in their seats while they made their demands.
However, an investigation of the video by the Indian Express revealed that from 1 pm, which was when the Deputy Chairman extended the sitting, to 1:26 pm, when the House was adjourned for 15 minutes, two of the three MPs who had moved motion to send the controversial bills to a select committee – DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and CPM’s K K Ragesh – were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes.
At 1pm, Deputy Chairman told Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was replying to the discussion on the two Bills, that it was 1 pm. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi proposed an extension of the House.
Singh asked whether the House agreed to sit till the disposal of the bill. Congress members Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh demanded that proceedings be continued Monday and then, along with Siva, asked the Deputy Chairman to take sense of the House. Singh replied there was consensus and asked Tomar to continue.
After that, the members rushed to the Well of the House shouting slogans. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the extension should be done “on the basis of consensus” and added that most political parties are saying that time should not be extended today and tomorrow the minister can reply.
At 1.07 pm, Singh began to dispose the statutory resolutions before passage of the Bill while the Opposition continued to shout slogans against it. He called CPM’s K K Ragesh, who had moved a statutory resolution and told an unidentified member in the Well to return to his seat in the gallery upstairs. Ragesh is seated in the gallery.
Singh said on Sunday in his version of clarification – “The statutory resolution disapproving the ordinance and the amendment for the reference of the bill to select committee moved by Sri KK Ragesh were negatived by voice vote by the House at 1.07 pm, as Sri Ragesh was in the Well of the House and not on his seat at the gallery at that point of time. This can be seen from the video as calling him to move his resolution and amendment, I looked at the gallery, but he was not there.”
At 1:08 pm, the statutory resolution got negated in a voice vote. After that, Singh took up a motion moved by Ragesh which sought the reference of the Bill to a select committee. The motion was negated by a voice vote.
1:09 pm, Singh took up a motion moved by O’Brien which sought the reference of the Bill to a select committee, and the motion was again negated by a voice vote. A voice was heard seeking division, after which the audio went off for a couple of seconds. Singh then said demand for division ought to be made from the seat.
At 1:10 pm, Singh took up a motion moved by Siva which sought reference of the Bill to a select committee, and the motion was negated by a voice vote. The footage showed Siva in his seat, with his hand raised in demand of division. O’Brien rushed to Singh’s podium with a copy of the rule book in his hand and shouted “you cannot do this….what is the rule”. At the time, Siva was still put in his seat.
At 1.11 pm, Deputy Speaker began clause by clause consideration of the Bill. He took up amendments moved by Ragesh to clause-II and the footage showed him in his seat upstairs demanding division. The amendments were negated through a voice vote.
At 1.12 pm, the footage showed Ragesh in his seat and Siva was tearing papers from his seat. The chaos increased and at 1.13pm, an unidentified member attempted to uproot the microphones installed on Singh’s podium. At 1.14 pm, the Audio went off and stayed off. At 1.26 pm, the House was adjourned for 15 minutes.
Singh in a statement on Sunday denied the opposition’s allegations with an incident report”, which detailed an account of the chain of events that day.
“When Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, was replying on the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance, and Farm Services Bill, 2020, some Members disregarded the authority of the Chair, abused the rules of the Council (Rajya Sabha) by persistently and willfully obstructing the business thereof. A detailed report in this regard as per the available footage is as under…” the statement said.