New Delhi, August 4
The suspension of 25 Congress MPs on Tuesday united the opposition in parliament and escalated the confrontation with the government as the Congress said it will not relent till its demands on the resignation of the three BJP leaders are met.
With the Opposition missing, Lok Sabha passed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014, first bill to be passed in the monsoon session.
Boycotting Parliament in protest against the suspension of its MPs, the Congress got support from other opposition parties, including SP, RJD, Trinamool Congress and the Left, and staged protests against the Speaker's action described by Sonia Gandhi as a “murder of democracy”.
The government, on the other hand, slammed the opposition parties for making an “issue” out of the suspension, arguing that the action had been taken by the Speaker as per the rules.
The issue brought together several opposition parties who boycotted the Lower House and paralysed the Rajya Sabha besides staging a joint protest in the Parliament House complex.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, JD(U), Muslim League and NCP boycotted the proceedings of Lok Sabha and members of the Left, SP and RJD walked out soon after the House met as a mark of solidarity with the MPs suspended for five working days by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan yesterday for causing disruptions.
In Rajya Sabha, the Congress and several other opposition parties created pandemonium over the issue, leading to a washout of the day's proceedings.
Outside, Congress MPs, led by party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, staged a sit-in near Mahatma Gandhi's statue along with leaders of SP, RJD and AAP.
Wearing black bands, they alleged that the action amounted to "murder of democracy".
Leading the anti-government assault from the front, Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi shouted slogans and declared that the campaign for resignation of BJP leaders will continue even if all its members are "thrown out of Parliament".
“Suspension of our MPs is anti-democratic. Democracy is being murdered,” said Sonia, as she, in a rare occurrence, raised slogans along with top party leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, AK Antony and Anand Sharma, against the Speaker's decision. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present.
“We will not budge from our stand and there will be no let up in our pressure (on government) as far as issues of corruption, Sushma Swaraj and Vyapam are concerned,” Rahul told reporters, making clear the party's intent to carry on with its belligerent posture on the issue of resignations of top BJP leaders accused of wrongdoing.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the suspension of Congress MPs was "no way" of resolving the issue.
“The Congress has raised (the issues) before the country, before the government and before Parliament. We want Parliament to run smoothly. It is the responsibility of the government to take into account the concerns that we have been voicing.”
Bolstered by the support of other parties, the Congress declared that the campaign for resignation of the BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan will continue even if all its members are “thrown out of Parliament”.
In Lok Sabha, where opposition benches wore a deserted look, BJD member Tathagata Satpathy sought to raise the issue of suspension but his remarks were expunged.
He made a strong plea against taking up any legislative business in the absence of several opposition parties including Congress.
Stung by Sonia Gandhi's remarks calling the suspension "murder of democracy", Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it was "unethical" on the part of the main Opposition party to make an issue out of it.
“As a Parliamentary Affairs Minister, I am eager that they come back to the House and work. With all humility, I want to say you protest but do not use harsh words like Black Day. I would urge them to look back a little at least,” he said in an apparent reference to the Emergency.
While there has been speculation in the media that the Lok Sabha Speaker could revoke the suspension of Congress MPs tomorrow, Naidu feigned ignorance about it saying he has not heard about it.
Sources in the government said the revocation of suspension has happened normally after members have regretted their behaviour and assured about behaving responsibly in the House.
When contacted, one of the suspended Congress MPs said that there is “no plan” by Congress to approach the Lok Sabha Speaker asking to revoke the suspension or apologise over their behaviour in the House.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury did not rule out moving a motion against Sumitra Mahajan for her suspension of Congress MPs, a move described by him as “excessive in nature”.
“We have not decided yet. We are against the action (of the Speaker) ... Let's see," said Yechury addressing a press conference along with party leader in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran.
He was asked whether CPI(M) will move any motion against the Speaker.
Disapproving the Speaker's action, Yechury said it is “unprecedented in independent India” for taking recourse to Rule 374(A) in Parliament. “This has never happened before.” — PTI/TNS