NEW DELHI, Dec 18: Even after taking a decision not to disrupt the penultimate session of Parliament and participate in the debates to put across their respective view points on various issues, the opposition continued to create ruckus leading to the unprecedented move of suspending 79 MPs from the two Houses on Monday for staging protests in demand of a statement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the security breach in Parliament last week.
Fourteen MPs had been suspended last week, also for demanding a statement on the security breach. So, this takes the total number of MPs suspended in this session to 92. This amounts to nearly a quarter of all opposition MPs in the final full sitting of Parliament before next year’s general election.
In Lok Sabha, 30 MPs have been suspended for the remainder of the session and three have been suspended till the privileges committee submits a report on their conduct. As for Rajya Sabha, 35 members have been suspended for the rest of session and 11 till a report by privileges panel. Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien had been suspended after he demanded a discussion on the breach.
On the eve of the current winter session of Parliament, which could be the penultimate for the present House which is due to go to the polls soon after a brief budget session in early 2024, all the opposition parties who had met at the chamber of the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had decided to allow the parliament to function smoothly so that the members could put across their views on various issues. However, the parliament security breach on December 13 when two persons jumped into the Lok Sabha from the visitors’ gallery and the arrest of six intruders, seems to have changed the opposition stand.
Most parts of the last week was wasted by the opposition engaging themselves in demanding a statement by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the House on the security breach. And though Mr Shah and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi have severely criticised the unfortunate incident, but the government so far has refrained from making any official statement in the House on the issue.
The suspended MPs from the Lok Sabha on Monday included Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress’s leader in Lok Sabha, and Gaurav Gogoi, deputy leader of the party in the House. Trinamool MPs Kalyan Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Saugata Ray and Satabdi Roy, and DMK members A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran are also on the list. In the Rajya Sabha, Congress’s Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Singh Surjewala, DMK’s Kanimozhi and RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha are among those suspended.
Speaking to the media, Mr Chowdhury said the government was behaving in a dictatorial manner and treating Parliament as BJP headquarters. He said the Opposition had been cooperating with the government ever since the session began. “This government has reached the apex of dictatorship. They have the majority, and they are wielding the stick of power. They want to run Parliament like a party office. But that cannot happen. We were eager for a discussion. The productivity of Parliament before December 13 is for all to see. It seems they find it easier to talk to the media, but are scared to speak in Parliament,” he said.
The Congress deputy leader Mr Gogoi criticised the government and the “sheer arrogance” of Amit Shah for refusing to address Parliament after the security breach. Mr Gogoi said the BJP government was bulldozing the Opposition and claimed that the Home Minister was scared of taking responsibility for the massive security breach. He said they would continue their protest outside Lok Sabha.
Amid the chaos in Rajya Sabha today, Vice-President and Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar was heard saying, “Many members are deliberately ignoring the bench. House is not functioning due to disruption.” Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said with an Opposition-less Parliament, the government can now “bulldoze important pending legislations, crush any dissent, without any debate.”
Earlier, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X that the Opposition was protesting because of the government’s refusal to accept their demand of a statement by the Home Minister.
“The Prime Minister speaks to a leading newspaper on the very serious December 13th security breach in the Lok Sabha. The Home Minister speaks to a TV channel on the security breach. Parliament is in session. INDIA parties are demanding a statement from the Home Minister in both Houses on the shocking incidents. It is a simple, straightforward and legitimate demand. But Home Minister refuses to make a statement which is his duty and responsibility,” Mr Ramesh said in the post.
On the Opposition’s demand for the Home Minister’s statement, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has maintained that security inside the House was under the secretariat’s purview and that it would not let the Centre intervene. “The government cannot intervene in (responsibilities of) Lok Sabha secretariat. We will not allow that either,” he said last week.
Shocking scenes played out in the Lok Sabha chamber Wednesday when two intruders jumped from desk to desk and deployed coloured smoke from canisters. Their co-accused staged a similar protest outside the Parliament. They have told investigators that their objective was to draw attention to Manipur violence, unemployment and farmers’ problems. A total of six people have been arrested in connection with a case so far. Delhi Police have invoked the stringent anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, against the trespassers.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who saw nearly a dozen of her MPs suspended, including veteran Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, and Kalyan Banerjee from the Lok Sabha, said the government had “no moral right to run a House (after) suspending the opposition fully”.
“If they think the House is ‘supreme’ why are they afraid? If they suspend all the members, who will raise the voice of the people? Voices of the people have been choked. They are passing three important bills… they have no moral right to suspend the opposition fully…” she said.
Even earlier in the day, both Houses were off to a rocky start with multiple adjournments. The Upper House passed the J&K Reorganisation Second Amendment Bill, 2023 and the Government of Union Territories (Amendment) Bill, 2023 by voice vote.
Meanwhile, the police investigating the security breach have found pieces of broken and charred cell phones in Nagaur, Rajasthan. In the four days since the incident, the police have arrested six persons: Manoranjan D, Sagar Sharma, Amol Shinde, Neelam Devi, Lalit Jha and Mahesh Kumawat. The winter session is expected to continue till December 22.