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Conversion row stalls Rajya Sabha proceedings for fourth straight day

New Delhi(PTI): The Rajya Sabha failed to transact any business for the fourth straight day on Thursday as the opposition kept demanding a reply by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a debate on religious conversions. The government ruled out any such reply.

The Prime Minister was present in the House during the Question Hour but this segment was consumed by arguments between the opposition and treasury benches over procedures of a debate on the communal incidents in the country. Thursday is a day when questions related to the portfolios held by the Prime Minister are listed for reply.

Opposition and treasury benches traded charges of “arrogance” and accused each other of not being serious to have the debate which was listed, resulting in repeated clashes and uproar. There was also disagreement on whether to use the words ‘attack on secular fabric’ in the name of the debate. The House was adjourned repeatedly before the Chair finally called it a day at around 2.45 PM.

In the face of continued demand, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was ready to debate the issue immediately but asserted that Opposition cannot dictate who will reply from the government side and what will be the terms and conditions.

“In this very House the Prime Minister made a statement on request of opposition… Three days after the Prime Minister’s statement, the House was not allowed to function…I repeat government’s (offer). If they want (discussion), let it start just now,” Jaitley said. Ruling out a reply by the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said as per the rules the Home Minister will reply after the debate as the issue relates to his ministry.

Amid the arguments and counter arguments, the House was adjourned for lunch break. When the House reassembled at 2 PM, the Prime Minister was not present, triggering protests from the opposition benches.

Demanding his presence, Opposition members like Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), however, argued that the ambit of the debate goes beyond the mandate of the Home Ministry and hence only the Prime Minister can reply. He was supported by Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma and other opposition members, including KC Tyagi.

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