Rajya Sabha has always risen for good of the nation: Modi

Rajya Sabha, Parliament, Lok Sabha, Council of States, federalism, Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament | PTI Photo

The Rajya Sabha gives an opportunity to people away from electoral politics to contribute to the country and its development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday (November 18) during the landmark 250th session of the Upper House.

We can never forget the role of the Rajya Sabha when bills related to Articles 370 and 35(A) were passed, he said, adding, “This House has worked to further unity.”

During his speech, he said that whenever it has been about good of the nation, the Rajya Sabha has risen to the occasion. “It was widely believed that Triple Talaq bill would not pass here but it did. Even GST became a reality after it was passed in this house,” he said.

Checking and clogging: Modi draws a line

The prime minister further said that the Rajya Sabha was essential for checks and balance in democracy but a distinction needs to be drawn between checking and clogging. He also lauded the NCP and the BJD for never rushing to the well of the House to raise their issues. “Yet, they have made their points very effectively. Much can be learnt from these practices,” he added.

“The Rajya Sabha is about checks and balances. This is absolutely essential for our democracy. Debates have to be many and effective. But, there is also a difference between checking and clogging (and between) balance and blocking,” he said.

Second but not secondary

With some within the ruling party questioning the effectiveness of Rajya Sabha as crucial legislative work got stalled because NDA lacked majority in the House, Modi recalled the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words that the Upper House “may be the second house but no one should think of it as a secondary house.”

“Today, I echo the sentiments of Atal ji and add that the Rajya Sabha must be a vibrant supportive House for national progress,” he said, adding makers of the Constitution envisioned a bicameral legislative framework and this vision has enriched the democracy. He, however, wanted the House to function and not disrupt work.

He said that India’s Constitution inspires the lawmakers to work for a Welfare State. “Our Constitution inspires us to work for a Welfare State. It also motivates us to work for the welfare of states. The Rajya Sabha, as the Council of States, enables us to further the spirit of cooperative federalism,” he said.

“Whenever it has been about national good, the Rajya Sabha has risen to the occasion and made a strong contribution. It was believed that the Bill on Triple Talaq would not pass here but it did. Even GST became a reality after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha,” he said.

The prime minister said the Rajya Sabha gives an opportunity to those away from electoral politics to contribute to the nation and its development. “Who can forget that it was through the Rajya Sabha that a stalwart like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar could contribute even more to national progress,” he said, adding Ambedkar was never allowed to be elected to the Lok Sabha.

He said that two things about the Rajya Sabha stand out – its permanent nature and it being representative of India’s diversity. “I can say that it is eternal… This House gives importance to India’s federal structure,” he said.

Manmohan highlights Kashmir issue

Speaking during the occasion, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said that it important that members of the Rajya Sabha debate Centre-state relations and that structural changes must be introduced in the functioning of the House.

During his speech, he also echoed the opposition sentiment on the Kashmir issue, something which several lawmakers have been demanding a discussion on.

“Converting Jammu and Kashmir into a union territory has such far reaching consequences. The government should consult the council of states before such drastic measures can be considered by the House,” he said.

According to a publication released on Sunday to mark the occasion, Rajya Sabha passed 3,817 bills in the last 67 years and 5,466 sittings of it were held. It amended 120 bills and rejected five bills passed by Lok Sabha. So far, it had a total 2,282 members, which include 208 women and 137 nominated. The number of women members doubled from 15 in 1952 to 31 in 2014.

(With inputs from agencies)