As the government made peace with the Congress over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks against his predecessor Manmohan Singh to end the impasse, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday witnessed disruptions over Minister Anant Kumar Hegde's words on amending the Constitution.
However, normalcy returned in the post lunch sitting after the government distanced itself from Minister of State for Skill Development's comments and also clarified that Modi did not mean to question his predecessor's commitment towards the nation.
The House then passed two bills.
As the upper house met after a four - day break, opposition members cutting across party lines objected strongly to Hegde's comments that the word "secular" need to be removed from the Preamble of the Constitution, and sought his removal from Parliament as well as Council of Ministers if he did not apologise for his comments.
The house was first adjourned soon after it met for the day.
The second adjournment was made till 2 p. m. , minutes after it met at noon as despite the government disowning Hegde's comments, the din continued.
Hegde, at a function in Karnataka had on Sunday, said that "those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, don't have their own identity" and that they "don't know about their parentage".
"Some people say the Constitution says secular and you must accept it.
We respect the Constitution, but the Constitution has changed several times and it will change in the future too. . . We are here to change the Constitution and we'll change it soon, " he added.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad lashed out at the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party, saying that if any person lacked faith in the Constitution, he did not deserve to be in the House or in the government.
Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu denied the request for a discussion on the issue but allowed the opposition members to briefly make a mention about it in the Zero Hour.
Members of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India - Marxist, the Communist Party of India and the DMK sought an apology from the Minister for insulting B. R. Ambedkar, one of the principal architects of the Constitution.
As the House was reconvened at 12 p. m. , Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said that the Modi government was committed to the Constitution and it did "not agree with the Minister's (Hegde's) remarks".
However, the opposition members still continued their loud protests and again came near the Chairman's podium and the House was adjourned till 2 p. m.
As it met at 2 p. m, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley made a statement saying that Prime Minister Modi "did not question nor did he mean to question the commitment of Manmohan Singh or (former Vice President) Hamid Ansari".
"Any such perception is completely erroneous.
We hold these leaders in high esteem and their commitment to the nation, " he said.
The Congress had been demanding an apology from the Prime Minister over his allegations he made at an election rally in Gujarat earlier this month wherein he said that Manmohan Singh had discussed Gujarat elections with former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Pakistan High Commissioner at a dinner hosted by former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar at his residence.
Following Jaitley's brief statement, Azad also read out a statement in which he distanced the Congress from Aiyar's "neech" (lowly) remark against Modi, saying the Congress disapproves of any attempt to bring down the dignity of the Prime Minister's Office.
The House then took up and passed after around two - hour discussion the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which excludes bamboo from the definition of "tree".
Union Environment and Forest Minister Harsh Vardhan argued that the exclusion of bamboo from the definition of "tree" would promote bamboo cultivation and reduce the country's dependence on imported bamboo.
However, members of the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Biju Janata Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India opposed the Bill contending that it would only benefit the big industrialists, timber mafia and the rich and not the farmers as claimed by the government.
The Congress and some other opposition parties staged a walkout for not being satisfied with the Minister's reply to the debate before the Bill was passed with voice vote.
The upper house also passed the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy Bill, 2017 that establishes the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy at Vishakapatnam and declares it an institute of national importance.