Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday surprised the Rajya Sabha with some unexpected praise for members of two opposition parties – Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal – for scrupulously adhering to the bar on members trooping into the Well of the House to protest.
“Both parties, they decided, as a matter of self discipline, that they will not go into the Well of the House. And I have seen, not one of their members has violated this rule,” PM Modi told the Rajya Sabha at a special discussion to commemorate the beginning of its 250th session on Monday.
Jumping into the Well – the area in front of the presiding officer where the secretariat staffers sit – is not allowed under the rules. But most opposition parties do not adhere to this rule and it is normal sight in parliament for their members to stand in the Well during protests.
PM Modi’s decision to commend the NCP comes against the backdrop of an effort by Sharad Pawar’s party to form the government in Maharashtra in alliance with the Shiv Sena and Congress. The conduct of members of the two parties, PM Modi said, held out a lesson for all other parties including the BJP that has also disrupted proceedings when it was in the opposition.
Watch: What PM Modi wants all MPs to learn from NCP & BJD
“All political parties have to learn, including my party, all of us have to learn that neither has it impacted NCP’s political journey nor the BJD’s. This means that one can win hearts and trust of people without going into the Well,” he said.
These parties have wonderfully adhered to Parliamentary norms. They have never ventured into the well. Yet, they have made their points very effectively.
Much can be learnt from these practices: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) November 18, 2019
“Why don’t we learn from them,” the prime minister said, suggesting that the members should at some point discuss and thank the two parties for the conduct of their members.
But PM Modi’s gesture to compliment the two opposition parties started and ended with the NCP and BJD.
PM Modi, who had started his speech to stress the importance of the Rajya Sabha, credited the Rajya Sabha for giving an opportunity to those away from electoral politics to contribute to the nation and its development.
The Rajya Sabha, he said, gives people who could not clear elections to be a part of Parliament. “But their contribution is as valuable,” he said, naming Dr BR Ambedkar as one such example.
“Who can forget that it was through the Rajya Sabha that a stalwart like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar could contribute even more to national progress,” he said, pointing out that Ambedkar was never allowed to be elected to the Lok Sabha.
The point about Dr Ambedkar, often referred to as the Father of the Constitution, not being allowed to enter the lower house is seen as a jibe at the Congress.
Dr Ambedkar, who steered the drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly and later went on to be India’s first law minister, fell out with the Congress leadership and quit the party. The Congress opposed Dr Ambedkar when he contested his first election in 1952, and defeated him. Dr Ambedkar stood again in Bhandara two years later but was yet again defeated by the Congress.