Congress, TDP members from Andhra, Rayalaseema suspended for disruption

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar finally acted against the slogan-shouting Andhra Pradesh MPs on Friday, suspending them for at least five days, but only after the government — at the highest level — and its parliamentary managers impressed on her, on Thursday evening, the urgent need to do something to make the House function to ensure the passage of the food security bill and other important legislation.

On Friday morning, the Speaker’s first discussion with party leaders, before the Lok Sabha met for the day, was inconclusive. But with question hour — that commences at 11 a.m. — ending within three minutes, with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs once again entering the well — as has been their daily practice — the Speaker called all party leaders once again to her chamber.

At that meeting, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav took the lead, saying a way forward needed to be found, and asked how the parties would respond if the Speaker herself were to give a ruling on the matter.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram then sought the views of the various leaders.

According to opposition sources, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said that if the Speaker herself were to give a ruling, it would not be right for any party to walk out. The CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta concurred with this view.

Then the Biju Janata Dal’s Bhartuhari Mahtab intervened to ask why the matter was being given the colour of all-party consensus as a ruling by the Speaker did not require the endorsement of the members. The political parties, he said, were at liberty to take their decision on the floor of the House.

Mr. Mahtab’s views were then supported by the Shiv Sena’s Anant G. Geete, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s T.R. Baalu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s M. Thambidurai and the Trinamool Congress’s Sudip Bandopadhyay.

In short, while no one endorsed the action, no party opposed it either.

TDP leader Nama Nageswara Rao was, of course, in a minority. He defended his party colleagues’ disruption of the House, saying it was a reflection of the ground realities in the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh.

The Speaker’s action came a day after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath’s motion to suspend the offending MPs was resisted by all opposition parties.

Mr. Nath’s attempt came in the wake of Ms. Kumar’s reluctance to “name” the Andhra Pradesh MPs as her meeting with the various parties on Tuesday made it clear that it would be an unpopular move. But, by Thursday, the government had indicated to the Speaker that she would have to find a way to make the House function — and with Mr. Yadav agreeing to lead the way, the unpleasant task of suspending the MPs became easier.

Now, the food security bill is expected to come up in the Lok Sabha on Monday.It is expected that as the offending MPs — four from the TDP and eight from the Congress — will not be able to attend the House for the next five sittings, the government will have a chance to push the bill through — unless some other issue crops up.