He was supported by members across opposition parties with Tapan Sen (CPI-M) demanding revoking the order for zero duty imports of wheat.
New Delhi: Senior minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday faced opposition ire when he got up to rebut their criticism of the government for allowing duty-free import of wheat at the time of bumper crop.
Angry exchanges were witnessed during the Zero Hour after the Urban Development Minister termed as "unfair" the opposition criticism of the government for not fulfilling the promise of paying a minimum price equivalent to one-and-a-half-times the cost to farmers for their crop.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asked why should the minister "unnecessarily intervene" in the Zero Hour which as per rules is members' time to raise issues pertaining to public interest.
Moreover, it was not his job to intervene as he was neither the Agriculture Minister, nor the Parliamentary Affairs Minister who responds in absence of the concerned minister, he said and shot back at Naidu: "You are habitual of intervening."
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said ministers have a right to respond but criticising and attacking the government on policy issues is a right of the members. "Members can do that."
Raising the issue after his rule 267 adjournment motion was converted into a Zero Hour mention, Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said farmers were being forced to do distress sale of wheat and pulses as zero-duty import had been allowed in a year of bumper harvest.
While the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat has been fixed at Rs 1,625 per quintal, the going rate in the market is Rs 1,550, he said. Similarly, against a MSP ranging between Rs 4,527 to Rs 4,850 per quintal for different pulses, the going rate is Rs 3,400-3,500 per quintal.
He was supported by members across opposition parties with Tapan Sen (CPI-M) demanding revocation of the order for zero duty imports of wheat. Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the BJP came to the power on the promise of paying one-and-a-half times the cost as MSP but the farmers were being forced to sell their produce at less than MSP.
As members of Congress, SP and Left parties associated themselves with the issue, Naidu stood up to state that the opposition parties can give a notice for a discussion but it was "unfair" to attack the government and question its motives.
Azad shot back saying they are within their rights to do so during the Zero Hour. Other opposition members also joined in to question when Naidu was speaking.
Unfazed, Naidu continued to state that a Group of Ministers was discussing the issue and an appropriate decision will be taken at an appropriate time and asked the opposition not to make allegations.
This infuriated the opposition members further, forcing Kurien to intervene. He said MPs can raise any issue in the Zero Hour and ministers have a right to respond.
"When minister stands up to respond, it is the duty of members to listen," he said, adding when MPs raise important issues it is natural for ministers to react.
Azad said Naidu was neither the concerned minister nor Parliamentary Affairs Minister who responds in absence of the concerned minister.
Yechury said members have a right to raise issues and criticise the government. "Criticising, attacking government is a right of members. Members can do that," Kurien said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said any senior minister can definitely respond to the members' concerns and Naidu had done just that.
Order was restored in the House after this and listed business taken up.