New Delhi: For the second year in a row, the government faced embarrassing moments in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as the opposition forced an amendment to the motion of thanks on the president's address.
The opposition amendment led to the addition of a sentence to the motion, that the government is committed to securing the fundamental rights of all citizen to contest elections at all levels.
This despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to the upper house to pass the motion without any amendment, as per the tradition.
The prime minister, in his reply to the debate on the motion of thanks, said: "I will appeal to the members, trusting the president's vision, withdraw the amendments and pass the motion of thanks unanimously."
However, that was not to be.
Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad moved the amendment with reference to the education qualifications set for panchayat elections in Haryana and Rajasthan, even as the two states were not mentioned in the motion.
Despite several attempts by the government, including by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, to urge the chair not to allow the motion to be taken up as it referred to a matter that was state subject, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien permitted it as it did not refer to any state.
The amendment was then passed by the upper house after a division, which involved electronic voting. As many as 94 of the 155 members present in the house voted in favour of the amendment.
Interestingly, none of the Bahujan Samaj Party members were present in the house at the time of voting, even though its supremo Mayawati was present during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech.
In 2015, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury had moved a motion regretting that there was no mention of corruption and black money in the president's speech.
Azad, during the course of the debate, had asked the Centre to bring in legislation to roll back the provision on minimum educational qualifications, made mandatory for fighting panchayat elections in Rajasthan and Haryana.
Modi, in his reply, snubbed Azad, and said the parties protesting the imposition of minimum qualifications should give 30 percent tickets to illiterate candidates in the coming assembly polls (in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry).