M Venkaiah Naidu refusing to revoke the suspension of 12 of their MPs, Opposition parties led by the Congress Tuesday said they would continue their protests, and their members would not apologise or express any regret. However, a proposal to boycott the Parliament session was shelved as there was no unanimity on it.
The suspended MPs will begin a sit-in in front of Gandhi statue in Parliament Wednesday. The Opposition indicated that the House could witness disruptions for at least the next couple of days. “The Government has from day one embarked on a path of confrontation, which contradicts Prime Minister Modi’s call for free discussion and orderly functioning of Parliament… They have precipitated yet another round of confrontation. It is a trap for the Opposition, which we have refused to walk into,” Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma told The Indian Express.
Sources said the Congress and DMK were strongly opposed to a boycott of the session, with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi of the opinion that it would vacate the space for the government to have a free run in the House. The Trinamool Congress separately made it clear that it too was not in favour of a boycott. The RJD and Left parties backed one.
Later in the day, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to Naidu, rebutting the arguments the Vice-President made in the House upholding the suspension. Turning down the Opposition’s appeal, the Vice-President accused them of committing “murder of democracy”, while suggesting that he might reconsider if the suspended members “realise” they have commited a “sacrilege”.
The TMC stayed away from the Opposition meeting held in Kharge’s Parliament chambers, attended by 16 parties. The TMC and Samajwadi Party did not join the walkout from the Rajya Sabha either, after Naidu did not concede the request to revoke the suspension. The TMC and SP staged their own walkout, minutes after MPs from the Congress, DMK, Left and RJD had done so. While Kharge led the walkout, before the proceedings for the day began, after calling the manner of the suspension a “gross violation of… time-honoured parliamentary conventions”, TMC leader Derek O’Brien said that instead of Opposition MPs, ruling party members should have been suspended.
TMC MPs later joined a protest by Opposition parties in front of the Gandhi statue.
On Naidu claiming the Rajya Sabha was a “continuing institution” — to the Opposition’s charge that the rule invoked for the suspension was meant for an ongoing session and couldn’t be used in case of a previous session, as had been done in this case — Sharma said: “It is a flawed assumption. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent House, but each session is separately convened. There is no continuity between two sessions.”
Speaking in the House, Kharge said the Chair had rejected his attempt to raise a point of order when Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi moved the motion to suspend the MPs. “As per well-established conventions, every member who seeks to raise a point of order has to be allowed by the Chair,” he said.
The veteran Congress leader also said that the rules underline that an MP’s name be mentioned by the Chair for their alleged offence. “And the motion can be brought only on the day of the act. None of the members were named that day.”
Naidu rejected Kharge’s contentions, saying that 33 members, including the 12 suspended MPs, were named on August 11 for their alleged disruptive activities the day earlier. He said 11 of the 12 MPs, except Elamaram Kareem (CPM), were named in that list.
After an Opposition member accused Naidu of misleading the House, he shot back, saying,”You try to mislead the House, you disturbed the House, you ransack the tables, you also tore papers, then you are giving me lessons? The motion was moved, it was approved, the action is taken, it is final. And the members who have committed this sacrilege… they have not expressed any remorse… So I do not think the appeal of the leader of the Opposition is worth considering, I am not considering it at all.”
The TMC’s O’Brien later made a short intervention, saying: “We all want Parliament to run… But the entire Monsoon Session, the Opposition was compelled to do what they did because certain discussions were not allowed… The 12 MPs should not have been suspended, the 80 MPs of the Treasury benches should have been suspended.”
Naidu then read out from the records of proceedings of August 11 to assert that he had expressed anguish over the previous day’s events. One could check CCTV footage and TV channel records to see what happened on August 10, he said. The Chairman also denied the charge that the Opposition was not given the opportunity to talk about the farm Bills on August 10.
Naidu was essentially referring to a short duration discussion which was not specifically on the farm Bills or the farmers’ protest, which had been pointed out by the Opposition then.
“I appeal to all concerned to see that everybody follow rules, realise that some of them have gone wrong… And then the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the House, I suggest that both meet, discuss, and make the members who have committed this sacrilege realise, and then we can think about it whatever has been suggested,” Naidu said.
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