The impasse between the Opposition and the government over the suspension of 12 MPs from the Rajya Sabha continued as neither side was willing to concede any space. The government wants the “errant” MPs to unconditionally apologise on the floor of the House. On the first day of the sit-in at the Mahatma Gandhi statue on Parliament premises, the MPs said it was for the government to apologise for undermining parliamentary democracy.
The Rajya Sabha saw four adjournments on Wednesday, each time after Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge sought to raise the suspension issue. The Opposition parties held another round of meeting at Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence in the evening to discuss the strategy ahead. The TMC was invited for the meeting but it didn’t come. According to sources, the suspended MPs would continue their protest at the Gandhi statue and simultaneously the issue would be raised in the House.
Congress MP Syed Naseer Hussain said, “What should we say sorry for? Parliament is meant to raise the issues concerning the people of the country. Parliament is meant for debate, discussion and dialogue. The government has scant respect for democratic traditions of our country. Do you think we need to apologise to the government for asking questions?” He added that at least one dozen MPs every day moved notices to discuss important issues such as price hike, Indo-China crisis, the farm agitation and so on but none of these notices were admitted.
TMC’s Dola Sen said that the only reason the Opposition was forced to disrupt the proceedings was because they were not allowed to speak and debate the relevant issues in the House. Ms. Sen was suspended in September 2020 when the farm laws were passed in Parliament and then again in the monsoon session.
She said, “The government claims we are habitual offenders, but they are the habitual offenders. Narendra Modi brought in demonetisation with the goal of unearthing black money. The black money didn’t come. Instead, 150 persons lost their lives. And then again, he imposed the farm laws against the wishes of people. In the agitation for over a year, 750 persons were martyred. So who is the habitual offender?”
The leaders said the suspension would help the government to bring in more controversial bills. Suspended CPI(M) Rajya Sabha floor leader Elamaram Kareem stated that the BJP government found itself in a tough spot with many of its erstwhile allies and supporting parties deserting them like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. “Now the Opposition strength is less. That was deliberately done. This suspension has eased some of BJP’s pressure and now they can bring bills and get them passed easily,” he added.
The Opposition said the government was not interested in breaking the deadlock. “The way the Leader of Opposition is being disregarded, to put it mildly, by the Chair is unprecedented,” Congress Chief Whip Jairam Ramesh said.
The protest also saw a lighter moment. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who was accompanying a Mongolian delegation around the Parliament showing them the sights and sounds, passed by the protest sites. The opposition MPs did not let go of the opportunity and shouted out greetings to him. Mr. Birla waved reluctantly at them in response.
Opposition MPs brought in food, tea and toasts for their suspended colleagues who were sitting on dharna. Mr Kharge brought in lunch, while Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan brought candies and chocolates.