New Delhi: The absence of Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and his junior Manoj Sinha during Question Hour, when questions related to their ministry were listed, led to a furore in the Lok Sabha and embarrassment for the government — which was forced to apologise in the lower house.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also issued a stricture against the government, saying such instances should not recur.
During Question Hour, a question related to the railways ministry was listed at serial number 147. Shortly after question number 146 was completed, the Speaker took up the next number – 147, which was related to ‘Go-India Smart Card’, an initiative of the railways ministry.
Neither Prabhu nor Sinha were present in the House at the time..
The situation led to loud protests by Congress members, led by its leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Raising the matter of the absence of the minister, Kharge sought to know from the government why the ministers were absent when questions relating to their ministry were listed.
Kharge said this was not the first time that a minister was absent when matters related to their respective departments were taken up.
“For running of the house, ministers must be present, but they are not following rules,” Kharge said.
Mahajan expressed her displeasure over the absence of the ministers.
“I was informed that the cabinet minister is busy somewhere else. The minister of state was here but he left the House. Ministers should be present till the last. This should not happen again,” she said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu apologised for the absence of the minister saying it will not be repeated.
“I am sorry and it will not be repeated. The minister should be in the House. It is a mistake,” he said.
He also suggested that the particular question relating to the railway ministry should be postponed and taken up on another day.
Manoj Sinha had been present in the House earlier when Question Hour started.
The first question listed was for the railways ministry and Sinha gave a reply. At the time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also present in the House.
Sinha, however, left the House probably assuming that question number 147 would likely not come up.
Prabhu later came to the House and apologised for the mistake.