Hours after she named and suspended 25 Congress Lok Sabha members for five days for “persistently and wilfully obstructing” proceedings in the House, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Monday said she had taken a “decision for the future good of Parliament”. She underlined that the “opposition must have its say, but the government also must have a way”.
Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme — the full transcript will appear on Sunday, August 9 — in The Indian Express newsroom shortly after she adjourned the House, Mahajan said: “Let us see what happens. I am not stubborn.”
The Speaker’s action followed days of protest by Congress members who have been raising slogans and waving placards in the well of the House to press their demand for the resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the controversies surrounding them.
Mahajan said she hoped to give parliamentary proceedings “a fresh start” with her “stringent decision” against obstructionism in the house.
“Sometimes we have to think why Parliament is there… whether Parliament is for discussions… for diplomacy, for making some laws… there is a rule book, rules made by parliamentarians… why is obstruction the only way to oppose when there are rules we have framed as parliamentarians? One must start thinking… kuchh hona chahiye ki nahin? Or, should it go on?”
She said she had given Congress members enough time, and warning. “I have not taken the decision immediately. This has been happening for the past eight days. So I tried. I told them, please don’t do that. Yes, you must have some demand but you can discuss. There are so many rules.”
“I called all leaders of the parties and told them to stop their members from waving placards, to go back to their seats. Or, to do at least one of the two things. But not only did they not stop, they started coming towards me. They started (overshadowing) the Speaker and the ministers with placards. Then I thought yeh height ho gayi. The opposition must have its say, but the government also must have a way.”
She said last week when she asked Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress to leave the House for the same reason, she noticed that a group of school children were watching the proceedings from the visitors’ gallery. “I thought then, what message are we sending them?”
Told that the BJP had adopted a similar strategy when it was in the opposition, Mahajan said there was need to put a stop to this since every party had resorted to such tactics in the past.
“Yes, last Parliament BJP did it, before that the Congress did it… I have the records… mere bete ne kara, tumhare bete ne kara, ab humare pote poti bhi karein kya? (your son did it, my son did it, now should our grandchildren do it)… whether it should carry (on), that is my question… you started a wrong tradition, you have to end it somewhere… why not start something positive?”
Asked whether she would be willing to reconsider her decision on the suspension of Congress MPs, she said: “Today I have taken some decision after trying (to find a solution). Let us see what happens. I am not stubborn.”