As parliament headed for a third straight week of “washout”, twenty-five Congress lawmakers were suspended on Monday for five days for disrupting the proceedings, triggering massive protests from the opposition as nine political parties decided to boycott the House in expression of solidarity with the suspended members.
It is rare that so many MPs have been placed under suspension for stalling the proceedings of the House. Incidentally, the current ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also paralyzed the parliament for months when it was in the Opposition.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took the decision against placard-waving members after they refused to go back to their seats after repeated warning. The members were in the Well of the House demanding resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for allegedly helping former Indian Premier league commissioner Lalit Modi to get travel documents from UK authorities despite a contrary directive by the previous UPA government.
The Congress MPs were also demanding the resignation of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the LalitGate scandal and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over Vyapam scam.
Enraged by the behavior of the Congress members, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said they were “persistently, willfully obstructing the House” and invoked Rule 374(A) providing for suspension of a member for five days.
This led to massive furor and even though the Speaker adjourned the House immediately, several Congress members staged a sit-in in the House. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who later described it as a “black day for democracy,” was present in the house.
Looking upset, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi did not leave the House and held talks with leaders of some other opposition parties and urged them to remain united to protest the Speaker’s action.
In response to Sonia’s call nine opposition parties – Trinamool Congress (TMC), National Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI(M)), Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Muslim League, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal United (JD(U)) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decided to boycott Lok Sabha for five days along with the suspended members.
The Rule 374(A) says:
“Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and willfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.”
The suspended members included B N Chandrappa, Santok Singh Chaudhary, A H K Choudhury, Sushmita Dev, Ninog Ering, R Dhruvanarayana, Gaurav Gogoi, G Sukender Reddy, Deepender Hooda, S Kodikunnil, S P Muddahanumegowda, Abhijit Mukherjee, Mullappally Ramachandran, K H Munniyappa, B V Nayak, Vincent Pala, M K Raghavan, Ranjeet Ranjan, C L Ruala, T Sahu, Rajee Satav, Ravneet Singh K Suresh, K C Venugopal and T Meinya.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh rejected the demand for the resignation of Swaraj as well as the two Chief Ministers saying there was no first information report or court’s observation against them.
While Sonia Gandhi described the Speaker’s action as a ‘Black Day’ for democracy, the BJP defended the decision. Nationalist Congress party leader Tariq Anwar said the Speaker’s action showed that BJP veteran L K Advani’s fear that emergency can return could be coming true as we are moving toward “black days”.
But BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao justified the action against the MPs, saying the Speaker’s was well within her right to take appropriate decisions to run the House smoothly in accordance with people’s wishes.
“It is the prerogative of the presiding officer to take all appropriate action to ensure that the House functions smoothly in accordance with wishes of people as it is the House of the people.”
– G V L Narasimha Rao, BJP Spokesperson
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