Congress terms it ‘blot on democracy’
Four Congress Lok Sabha members were suspended on Monday for the rest of the Monsoon session after Speaker Om Birla took a stern view of the continuous disruptions by them, evoking a sharp reaction from the party, which termed the action against its MPs a “blot on democracy”.
The suspension of Congress MPs –Manickam Tagore, TN Prathapan, Ramya Haridas and Jothimani– under Rule 374 for obstructing the functioning of the House, came amidst continuous demand of the Opposition for a discussion on price rise and hike in GST rates.
Defending the suspension of these MPs from Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the government is ready for discussion on price rise, but the MPs did not respect the chair and created a ruckus by violating the laws.
As the protesting opposition members again stalled Lok Sabha proceedings on Monday after the near washout first week of the current session, the Chair named the Congress MPs. When members are named, they have to immediately withdraw from the chamber of the House.
Joshi then moved a resolution to suspend the four for the rest of the session. He said these MPs have shown “utter disregard” for the authority of the Chair and a “serious note of their misconduct” had been taken by the House. Earlier, Speaker Om Birla had warned the protesting members, including from the Congress, TMC and DMK, that those who continue to shout slogans and display placards will have to do it outside the House after 3 pm.
As the other opposition members continued to protest, a visibly peeved Birla told them that the government was ready to discuss issues raised by them and stressed that people want the House to function.
Birla then adjourned the House till 3 pm.
However, as the House proceedings resumed, waving of placards and sloganeering continued, drowning the voices of members participating in the Zero Hour.
Rajendra Agarwal, who was chairing the proceedings, asked the opposition members to take note of the warning given by the Speaker. He said that the members who had been suspended had shown “stubborn behaviour”, “deliberately and continuously disrupted proceedings” and ignored House rules and directions of the Speaker.
The House then passed the resolution by a voice vote and Agarwal announced their suspension. He then asked the members named in the resolution to immediately leave the House.
At a press conference, Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said there is a tradition in Parliament that suspension is done only in exceptional and rarest of rare circumstances when the member is unruly and there is no other option but to suspend that member.
“It is a tradition of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha that the member comes to the well of the House, it gets adjourned, there is a dialogue, a middle path is found and work goes on. Suspension is not the way and in the past, the suspension has not happened in this manner,” he said.
“Suspension instead of dialogue is a blot on democracy,” he said.
Congress’ leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the government wants to “throttle” the voice of the Opposition by resorting to “tactics of intimidation”.
“Our demands are very simple, since day one and before the commencement of the House at the all-party meeting in the presence of Rajnath Singh, the entire Opposition had in one voice called for discussion on price rise,” he said.
The price rise issue needs to be discussed forthwith because all people have been the victim of this, Chowdhury said.
“But the government on one pretext or another is shying away from having a discussion on price rise. So finding no alternative in Parliament, where it is our duty to raise the issues of the common people, we were shouting that this issue should be discussed,” he said.
“This government has resorted to a brutal measure by suspending our MPs only to throttle the voice of the Opposition. It is an anathema to the democratic ethos of our country. Day in and day out, the rights of the people, the institution of democracy is being trampled upon,” he said.
Speaking to reporters along with the four suspended MPs outside the House, Congress’ deputy leader in LS Gaurav Gogoi said,”the government is trying to intimidate us by suspending our MPs. What was their fault? They were trying to raise the issues which matter to people.”
The Congress party will not be cowed down like this, he asserted.
“The MPs were holding placards raising the issues of rising prices of gas cylinders, imposition of GST on items such as flour and buttermilk. We moved an adjournment motion demanding a discussion on these issues, but no discussion was held,” he said.
Tagore, one of the suspended MPs, alleged that the government “only hears the voice of the fourth-richest man in the world and not the common man.”
Later talking to reporters, Joshi said the government has been saying that it is “ready for discussion on price rise as soon as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recovers from COVID.”
Joshi termed the conduct of suspended Congress MPs in the House “unacceptable” and said, “placing placards in front of the Lok Sabha Speaker chair is not the way to protest.”
“They were doing this after being warned by the Speaker,” he said.
Joshi, who had moved the motion to suspend these MPs, said he had personally told the Congress leaders of both LS and RS that the government was ready for discussion on price rise.
“But the Congress MPs’ action in the House shows they don’t respect the chair and the house. The action taken against them is appropriate,” he said.