Record 78 MPs suspended in a single day; Opposition terms it ‘murder of democracy’ by ‘autocratic Modi government’

In the Winter Session so far, 92 MPs have been suspended; multiple Bills were passed amidst the chaos and repeated adjournments; “All democratic norms are being thrown into the dustbin,” says Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge

December 18, 2023 03:50 pm | Updated December 19, 2023 06:53 pm IST

Opposition MPs, who were suspended from the Parliament for the remainder of the Winter Session, protest in Parliament, on December 18, 2023.

Opposition MPs, who were suspended from the Parliament for the remainder of the Winter Session, protest in Parliament, on December 18, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

In a major escalation of tensions between the Opposition and the government, 78 MPs were suspended from both Houses of Parliament on Monday, taking the total number of suspended MPs in this session to 92, both figures unprecedented in the history of the Indian Parliament. Opposition leaders termed it a “murder of democracy.”

Those suspended include the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, DMK floor leader T.R. Baalu, former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran, and Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy. In the Rajya Sabha, almost 50% of the Opposition strength has been depleted. On Thursday, 14 MPs had been suspended, 13 from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha.

Also Read | Parliament Winter Session Day 12 LIVE

Repeated adjournments

In the Lok Sabha on Monday, 33 MPs were suspended at around 3 p.m. after repeated adjournments of the House, and after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla read out a letter he had written to all MPs on Saturday, stating that his office was responsible for the security of the Parliament House complex and that his earlier suspension of 13 MPs was unconnected with the security breach.

Opposition MPs, however, continued to protest and Mr. Birla adjourned the House till noon. As protests by MPs continued even after the House reconvened, presiding officer Rajendra Agarwal stated that the behaviour was “inviting action from the Chair”. At 3 p.m., after yet another adjournment, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi read out a resolution to suspend the 33 MPs, which was passed by a voice vote.

While 30 MPs in the Lok Sabha were suspended for the duration of the Winter Session, three Congress members – K. Jayakumar, Vijay Vasanth, and Abdul Khaleque – faced suspension pending the report of the Privileges Committee, as they had climbed on the Speaker’s podium to raise slogans.

Both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the protesting Opposition MPs were demanding a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah on last week’s security breach in the Lok Sabha, which led to the arrest of six people.

Bills passed amidst chaos

In the Rajya Sabha, the trouble started in the morning, when Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar rejected 22 notices moved by the Opposition to debate the security breach. The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned multiple times. The first adjournment came at 11:10 p.m.; the House reconvened at 11:30 p.m., only to be adjourned again within four minutes.

In the afternoon, amidst the din of protest, the House cleared the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Government of Union Territories (Amendment) Bill, 2023, passing both Bills within 15 minutes. Mr. Dhankhar’s pleas for order in the House were ignored, as the Opposition refused to relent on its demand for a debate on the security breach. Instead, Opposition MPs pressed for an opportunity to allow Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge to speak. The House was adjourned again, and when it met again at 4:00 p.m., it could not sit beyond five minutes.

At 4:30 p.m., when the House reconvened once more, Leader of House Piyush Goyal moved a motion, suspending 45 members. The suspension was carried out amidst total pandemonium, with the Opposition members approaching the treasury benches too. Reading out the suspension order, Mr. Dhankhar said that, despite his “repeated requests, some honourable members continued their act of wilful defiance of directives of the chair and violations of the rules of the house”. He said that the members had been suspended for “their ignoble and grossly disorderly conduct”.

‘Autocratic government’

The suspension of 78 Opposition MPs in a single day has overtaken the previous such instance of large-scale suspension of MPs in 1989, when 63 MPs had been suspended.

The Opposition, a large portion of whom find themselves out of their respective Houses for the rest of the session, said that the “autocratic” government had thrown all democratic norms into the dustbin.

“First, intruders attacked Parliament. Then Modi government is attacking Parliament and Democracy. All Democratic norms are being thrown into the dustbin by an autocratic Modi Government,” Mr. Kharge said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

‘Zero accountability to Parliament’

Instead of taking into account the Opposition’s two “simple” demands — for Mr. Shah to make a statement on the security breach, and for Parliament to hold a detailed discussion on the topic — MPs were being suspended, said Mr. Kharge. He pointed out that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given an interview to a newspaper, while Mr. Shah spoke to a TV channel on the security breach, they had demonstrated “zero accountability” towards Parliament.

“With an Opposition-Less Parliament, the Modi Government can now bulldoze important pending legislations, crush any dissent, without any debate,” Mr. Kharge added.

Amidst the suspensions, the Lok Sabha also saw the introduction of the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, and the passage of the Post Office Bill, 2023.

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