Trinamool Congress on Tuesday found itself in a tight corner in the Lok Sabha over a sting operation, with Government insisting that "truth has to prevail" and favouring a probe into the alleged bribery charges against some of its MPs.
The House saw BJP, Congress and Left making a common cause to target the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on the issue, even as Mamata Banerjee's party claimed that the charges were a political conspiracy ahead of the West Bengal polls.
Heated exchanges were witnessed between Trinamool Congress and Left members after Mohammad Salim of the CPI(M) raised the issue during Zero Hour and was followed by BJP's S.S. Ahluwalia and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) slammed the TMC and sought a probe.
They referred to the telecast of a sting purportedly showing several TMC leaders accepting money to help a fictitious private firm and demanded action against them, recalling that Parliament had expelled 11 members facing similar charges few years ago.
Responding to the members, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said "the prestige of Parliament is at stake. We have to establish the truth. Simply saying it is a conspiracy is not enough and will not satisfy the public."
Either the government can carry out an inquiry or the Speaker can order an inquiry, he said. Naidu's response came after members of different political parties demanded a probe.
"We are ashamed that we are sitting with such people. They should drown in shame. The dignity of Parliament has been compromised by their conduct," Salim (CPI-M) said, demanding that a committee be formed to probe the charges.
TMC members sat silently for most of the time as Salim was followed Ahluwalia and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in attacking them, but angry exchange of words took place when TMC leader Saugata Roy, one of the MPs allegedly shown in the sting, put up his party's defence.
TMC members and some from Congress and the Left were heard trading charges against each other, which were expunged by the Speaker.
"It is an embarrassment for our Parliament and democratic system. Five MPs have been shown accepting wads of money. The matter must be referred to the ethics committee," Ahluwalia said as he recalled that several members were expelled by the House after they were caught "being influenced" in similar sting operations in 2005-06.
"This is related to the dignity of the House. They (TMC MPs) have been caught. It must be probed," Chowdhury said.
Saugata Roy wondered under what rule Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed members to raise the issue and said in anguish that "I had to live to see this day. ... It (sting) is part of political conspiracy before the West Bengal elections where CPI(M), Congress and BJP are destined to lose," he said.
In an apparent criticism of Roy's objections to the issue being raised in the House, Naidu said members should not give an impression to the public that "we are hiding under some rule or pretext."
It may not be clear what is true or false but something is being seen and the prestige of Parliament is at stake, the Minister said, adding that aggrieved members can take action against the news portal if they feel the sting can turn out to be "falsehood".
He said that parliamentarians often faced criticism from the people as he pitched for a probe to "dispel the wrong impressions."
Naidu urged the Chair to take a call on this, reiterating that the government can order a probe or the Speaker can look into the matter.
In the Rajya Sabha, Left parties and BJP repeatedly tried to raise the issue of the sting operation, but were disallowed by Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.
Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) wanted a House Committee to inquire into the issue but Kurien asked him to give notice before raising allegations.
"You are a senior member of House. Have you given a notice? Without notice I am not allowing any allegation against anyone," Kurien said.
As BJP members too joined to raise the issue, he said, "I have made it very clear. Without a proper notice, I am not going to allow any allegation."
He then went on to expunge the allegations made by members. "If it is a serious matter, why dont you give notice," the Deputy Chairman said.
As he tried to restore order in the House, BJP members were on their feet trying to raise the issue and Kurien who was on his feet asked Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to rein in his party members.
"Chair cannot be cowed down by this kind of behaviour," he said. "Treasury benches should not behave like this. Treasury benches should cooperate with chair."
Kurien said he was not saying the matter should not be discussed. "I am saying give notice so that it can be considered. I will consider giving time (for discussion)."