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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Poha to paneer, idlis to rotis: An Opposition that eats together, protests together

🔴 DMK MP Tiruchi Siva brought idlis, sambar and chutney, enough to feed mediapersons covering the protest too. The NCP's Supriya Sule got poha and sabudana vadas. The Samajwadi Party's Jaya Bachchan, who distributed dry fruits and savouries last week, on Wednesday came bearing paneer rolls.

Written by Liz Mathew , Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: December 9, 2021 7:53:05 am
Parliament winter session, Parliament opposition parties, Parliament news, Indian express, Indian express newsNCP MP Supriya Sule serves lunch to Rajya Sabha MPs who have been protesting their suspension from the House during Winter Session of Parliament, on Wednesday. (PTI)

Mattresses and colourful durries around, baskets of food, sweets and snacks, people sitting on the ground, and some senior ones on chairs. The site of many a protest, the Gandhi statue at Parliament House bears the look of a happy picnic spot these days. Inner wrangling may have left a bitter taste in the Opposition, but over the 12 suspended MPs, a common bond has been formed over food.

It began with someone bringing sweets for the protesters, belonging to different parties (the Trinamool to the Left, the Shiv Sena to the Congress) and various states (Kerala to West Bengal to Maharashtra). Then others started getting home-cooked meals, taking care to reflect their state special.

With the House functioning in fits and starts over the suspensions, among other issues, other parliamentarians keep dropping by. Placards propped up against plant pots have slogans like ‘Save India’, ‘BJP killing democracy’ and ‘Stop muzzling voices of Opposition MPs’.

DMK MP Tiruchi Siva brought idlis, sambar and chutney, enough to feed mediapersons covering the protest too. The NCP’s Supriya Sule got poha and sabudana vadas. The Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan, who distributed dry fruits and savouries last week, on Wednesday came bearing paneer rolls. SP MPs also made a political point wearing red caps to the protest, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said laal topis meant red alert for Uttar Pradesh.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav joins the suspended Rajya Sabha MPs’ protest near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, demanding revocation of their suspension, during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (PTI)

The TMC’s Derek O’Brien and Nadimul Haque organised Bengali dishes from Bijoli Grill restaurant, Congress Gujarat Rajya Sabhma MP Shaktisinh Gohil shared a meal of rotis and vegetable curries, while Congress Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has been getting food from his residence.

Among the 12 suspended, the Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, formerly of the Congress, said such was the enthusiasm that she and the TMC’s Dola Sen had worked out a roster for who would get food on what days. So Thursday is AAP MP Sanjay Singh’s turn, while on Friday one of the suspended MPs, Chhaya Verma of the Congress, will get Chhattisgarhi food, as demanded by the others.

The 12 MPs were suspended on the opening day of the Winter Session, and will remain so till it concludes on December 23. The action was taken over incidents that happened in the Rajya Sabha during the previous session. Apart from Chaturvedi, Sen and Verma, the suspended MPs include Phulo Devi Netam, Ripun Bora, Rajamani Patel, Syed Nasir Hussain and Akhilesh Prasad Singh of the Congress; Shanta Chhetri of the TMC; the Sena’s Anil Desai; the CPM’s Elamaram Kareem; and the CPI’s Binoy Viswam.

Chaturvedi, who along Sen is the most vocal of the protesting MPs, hailed the “camaraderie” and “solidarity” at the protest site. “It sends a message that we are not alone. Each of us represents 34-36 MLAs,” she said. “Now we are asking for food from every region. We will all be friends for life as we are struggling here together. In fact, all 12 of us share the same views and thoughts on most issues.”

After some of the MPs complained about the tea, Chaturvedi has arranged for it to be delivered from her residence in Lodhi Garden twice a day.

TMC MP Sushmita Dev, also formerly of the Congress, said she wanted to bring “ilish (hilsa)”. “But it would not be easy to have it here.”

Last year saw the first glimpse of what such a protest could be when eight Rajya Sabha MPs of the Opposition, suspended from the House over unruly scenes during the passage of the farm laws, held a 24-hour protest at the Gandhi statue. They sang songs, discussed politics and kept themselves updated on social media.

With the government not relenting on the Opposition demand to revoke the suspension of the MPs, sources said the ongoing protest might now be extended to night.

On Wednesday, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who was at the site for the first half of the day, joked that he had come with “food for thought”.

Amid a resolve to continue the “fight” inside and outside the House, Sen sang: “Hum honge kaamyab (We shall overcome).”

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