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Day 4: Opposition, govt stick to stands, Rajya Sabha adjourned

The Rajya Sabha failed to transact any business on Thursday, fourth day in a row, as a united Opposition demanded a discussion on the issue of religious conversions with the prime minister giving a reply. Though the prime minister was present in the House, the treasury benches said that the discussion would not happen the way Opposition wants it.

“The opposition cannot dictate who will reply to a debate,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the leader of the house, asserting that Home Minister Rajnath Singh, not PM Modi, would respond to the discussion. This was strongly opposed by members belonging to Congress, Left parties, Trinamool Congress, JD(U) and BSP. The House witnessed heated exchanges between the treasury and opposition benches accusing each other, forcing repeated adjournments.

The government on Thursday was to table the key Insurance Bill, which seeks to raise a cap on foreign direct investment in insurance to 49 percent. Pointing out that the Lok Sabha was functioning smoothly while the Rajya Sabha was not a visibly agitated Jaitley said this indicated “arrogance of numbers, not the arrogance of the government.” The ruling party is in minority in the Upper House. To this Communist leader Sitaram Yechury responded saying that the Lok Sabha was functioning because of “tyranny of majority.”

With just four days of the current session left and both the government and the Opposition refusing to blink on the issue, the passage of several bills for initiating financial sector reforms is in serious jeopardy.
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