New Delhi: The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to remove the Congress president as a trustee, could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday in the absence of a broad consensus on the legislation. The government in the Upper House urged members to pass the Bill without discussion as this year marked the centenary of the Jallianwala massacre and also in view of the death of former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
Culture Minister Prahalad Singh Patel moved the Bill in the House further to amend the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951, as passed by Lok Sabha on 2 August for consideration and passage without debate. Anand Sharma (Cong), however, said the minister must be allowed to talk about salient features of the Bill, which was agreed to by the minister.
The Congress chief is a permanent member of the panel. The Bill seeks to amend this to include the leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as a member. Sharma said members don’t want any acrimony or argument on the last day of the session but the issue pertained to national sentiments related to India’s Independence.
“It is the duty of the nation to remember and respect those who had struggled. The government should acknowledge the role of the Congress in India’s freedom movement. Due should be given to the party which had steered the movement… The government should reconsider this Bill… The government should show some large-heartedness,” Sharma said.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said more members wanted to speak on the Bill.”If you want a discussion, we have to take up the Bill in the next session only,” he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi urged members to pass the Bill since it is the centenary year of the event. He said the tenure of members have lapsed and a new panel has to be constituted.”The tenure of many trustees has expired. We have no other intention. I appeal to you. In November we will be having one more session then we can have a full discussion,” he said.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said there should not be any acrimony today in view of Swaraj’s death, a view echoed by Satish Chandra Misra (BSP). Derek O’Brien (TMC) said there was an option of either taking up the Bill and discuss it or not taking it up. Prasanna Acharya (BJD) said either the Bill should be passed or be taken up in the next session. K Keshava Rao (TRS) suggested the Bill must be deferred in view of Swaraj’s death.
A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) said the Bill may be passed without discussion while TK Rangarajan (CPI-M) and TKS Elangovan (DMK) said the Bill can be taken up in the next session. Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded that the Bill should be deferred as the “heaven will not fall in one or two months”. He said this was the time to mourn the death of Swaraj, one of the tallest political leaders. “Let’s not fight today,” he said.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stressed that since it is the centenary year of Jallianwala Bagh, the Bill should be passed and a detailed discussion is taken up in the next session in November. “We know the role of Congress in the freedom movement. But should we connect it with the memorial”, he asked.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said the Congress was not ready and also objected to the behaviour of some members.”I don’t want to do anything…Some members feel they are above the chair and do a running commentary…It is my fault…I was told the parties were willing to pass the Bill without discussion. I should have gone for the ballot,” he said.
Earlier Lok Sabha on 2 August had passed the Bill by voice vote amid a walkout by the Congress. Amendments moved by Opposition parties were defeated by a division of votes. A division sought by opposition members at the time of consideration of the Bill was defeated with 214 voting in favour and 30 against.
Piloting the Bill, Culture Minister Patel had asserted that national memorials cannot be “political memorials” and they should be kept away from politics. The amendment Bill also paves the way for the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the trust. But no such post exists at present as no non-BJP party has won the required 10% of total seats to get the status.
As of now, the trust which manages the memorial has the prime minister as the chairperson, President of Indian National Congress, Culture Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Punjab governor, Punjab CM as its members. Later the House has adjourned sine die. Rajya Sabha also approved the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill.