It is very rare that Rajya Sabha passes an amendment to the motion of thanks to the President’s address since the ruling party usually has a majority in the upper house as well. But on five different occasions since independence, the Rajya Sabha passed amendments to the motion of thanks to the President’s address and two of the five occasions were in 2015 and 2016.
It happened again this year. The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha(RS), Ghulam Nabi Azad pressed for an amendment to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address on 09th March, 2016. The amendment was eventually passed by the RS with 94 for and only 61 against the motion. This is only the 5th time that it has happened in the history of independent India. It has now happened twice in two years (2015 and 2016). It is interesting to note that President Pranab Mukherjee was the one pressing for an amendment on one of other three occasions. In four of the five occasions, a non Congress party was in power at the center. Here is the list all the five occasions.
First: January 30th, 1980 when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister
Bhupesh Gupta, a five time RS MP from CPI moved an amendment to highlight that the President’s Address did not mention the attempts to engineer large scale defections in assemblies under the non-congress governments. The amendment was narrowly passed with 79 for and 75 against the amendment.
Second: December 29th, 1989 when V P Singh was the Prime Minister
This was one occasion when a large number of amendments were passed. V P Singh was the Prime Minister leading the National Front Government. Six(6) amendments were passed in all. These were moved by Congress Rajya Sabha MPs Anand Sharma, Shiv Shanker & a nominated MP Madan Bhatia. The amendments were intended to highlight that the President’s Address did not mention the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, Destabilization of state governments, amendment to the constitution to ensure ‘Right to Work’ as a fundamental right, Indo-Srilanka Accord, Government’s stand on Anandpur Saheb resolution, release of terrorists by the government in December, 1989.
Third: March 12th, 2001 when A B Vajpayee was the Prime Minister
The current President of India, Pranab Mukherjee who was then a RS MP, moved an amendment to highlight that the President’s Address did not mention the issue of Government’s decision to sell out a Public Sector Unit (PSU) BALCO. This was during the first term of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) when A B Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The amendment was passed with 100 voting for and 64 against the amendment.
Fourth: March 3rd, 2015 when Narendra Modi was the Prime Minister
RS MPs from CPI(M); Sitaram Yechury, P Rajeeve & T K Rangarajan moved this amendment that the President’s Address did not mention the failure of the Government to curb high-level corruption & to bring back black money. The amendment was passed with 118 voting for and 57 voting against.
Fifth: March 9th, 2016 when Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister
The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha moved this amendment that the President’s Address did not mention that the government is committed to securing the fundamental right of all the citizens to contest elections at all levels, including to Panchayats. This amendment was pressed in the light of amendments made to Panchayat laws in Haryana and other states mandating minimum educational qualification for contesting in Panchayat elections. The amendment was passed with 94 voting for and 61 voting against.