BJP ally and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal’s remarks on the Gandhi family while Lok Sabha was discussing steps to meet the coronavirus threat led to a ruckus in the House Thursday, resulting in the suspension of seven Congress members for the remainder of the Budget session after they hurled torn papers at the Chair in protest.
The din over communal violence in Delhi, that had been dominating the session since Monday, took a break for about 40 minutes when Health Minister Harsh Vardhan read out a suo motu statement, updating the House on the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Following the statement, an MP from each party was given a minute or two to provide “suggestions” to the government on how to deal with the virus threat. Beniwal was the last to speak following a number of MPs including Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, Supriya Sule and Bhartruhari Mahtab.
Referring to the virus, Beniwal made a comment about Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. As Congress members rose in protest, BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal, who was in the Chair, directed that Beniwal’s remarks not be included in the records.
But by then, a group of Congress MPs, including Gaurav Gogoi, T N Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, entered the Well of the House. They tore papers like the Revised List of Business, even protest placards, and hurled them at Agarwal who said: “What is all this?” Some pieces of torn paper were flung in the air, leading to protests from BJP members.
Agarwal adjourned the House until 2 pm. Earlier, Congress members had protested when YSRCP MP K Raghu Rama Krishna Raju said the “Hindu custom” of namaste, instead of a handshake, was the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Congress members said namaste was not a Hindu but an Indian custom.
When the House assembled again at 3 pm, BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi, who was in the Chair, read a brief statement naming seven Congress MPs for their unruly behaviour. Condemning their action, she said “such unfortunate conduct has happened first time possibly in the history of Parliament when papers have been snatched from the Speaker’s table”.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion under Rule 374 (2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha, seeking suspension of Gaurav Gogoi, T N Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, Benny Behanan, B Manickam Tagore, Rajmohan Unnithan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla for their “gross misconduct” in the House. The motion was adopted by a voice vote and all seven MPs were suspended for the remainder of the session.
Joshi later told reporters: “We will seek termination of the member’s membership. What the Congress did in Lok Sabha showed their utmost disrespect to the Chair.”
The Congress reached out to other Opposition parties to put up a united front to stall any such move. It said suspension of its MPs was a “dictatorial decision” motivated by “revenge politics”.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “All the Opposition (parties)… we are on the same page… none of the Opposition parties will allow this… We will not budge from our own demand that the Delhi riots issue has to be discussed inside Parliament.”
“The government says it is thinking about allowing the discussion on March 11… If a discussion can be held on March 11, why not earlier… And now they have suspended seven of our MPs. What does that mean? They want to weaken us when we take part in the discussion,” he said.
(With inputs from Manoj C G)
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