Mayawati ticks off Ansari, takes on government over quota bill
Impatient over the delay in passing a bill that promises reservations for Dalits and tribals in job promotions, the BSP Wednesday stalled both houses of parliament, directly attacking Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Hamid Ansari.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, apparently, tried to hit two birds with one stone by telling Ansari that running the house was his responsibility, and putting pressure on the government by asking her party members not to let the Lok Sabha run.
A day after Ansari suggested scrapping or shifting the question hour as members were regularly disrupting the proceedings, Mayawati stunned the Rajya Sabha by blaming the chairman for non-functioning of the upper house.
"I am not ready to listen to anything...," Mayawati said, interrupting the question hour.
"...The house does not run after 12. You are the chairman of the house. It is your responsibility that the house is in order," she said.
Certain comments which launched a direct assault at the chair were however expunged later.
Ansari said he was "upset" by the comments and it would be difficult for him to work in such conditions.
"I am upset, it will be difficult to work in such a situation," he said told some members, according to an MP present in a meeting soon after the house was adjourned.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and several key leaders were present at the meeting.
According to highly-placed sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Ansari after the incident and expressed his concern over the development.
Mayawati, however, defended her remarks and accused the government of not being serious about passing the promotion quota bill.
She said both the government and "BJP and company" had assured that the quota bill would be taken up after the house debated foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
By convention, members do not cast personal aspersions on the chair.
The chairman presides over the question hour while zero hour and subsequent proceedings are generally conducted by the deputy chairman.
A cabinet minister, who did not wish to be named, called Mayawati's outburst "pressure tactics".
"She is using pressure tactics by disrupting the Lok Sabha over coal blocks issue so the government pushes the jobs quota bill," the minister told IANS.
Both the Congress and the BJP, meanwhile, made calculated comments terming Mayawati's remark on Ansari "unfortunate".
"It is unfortunate (Mayawati made the remarks)...the chairman made certain observations Tuesday, we should watch our conduct," Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Renuka Chowdhury told reporters.
BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said: "It is unfortunate. The government is responsible for the situation, it is because of their behaviour they (BSP) are behaving like this."
The upper house has witnessed repeated disruptions over the past week over the constitution amendment bill on promotion quotas.
While the BSP is pressing the government to pass the quota bill so that Mayawati can showcase it as a victory to her voters in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in the state is dead opposed to the legislation to keep its other backward classes vote bank intact.
The Congress is in a bind as both the SP and the BSP helped the United Progressive Alliance win in parliament the crucial vote on allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail last week.
Congress managers have been trying hard to end the logjam over the jobs promotion quota bill but have achieved little success so far.
An all-party meeting called by Ansari failed to find a solution.
Government sources said they were still hopeful of working out a compromise formula but agreed that the SP was proving to be a tough customer.
The Congress tried to hit the middle ground by saying the bill was an emotive issue for both the SP and the BSP but said it was different from FDI in retail.
"It is an emotive issue in a large state like Uttar Pradesh but it is different from the FDI issue," said Chowdhury.
The Congress also said it could not force its views on any other party (read the SP).
"It is not for us to spell out our stand and force it down on any other party," she said.