- Written by Meryl Sebastian
- BBC News, Kochi
The Indian Parliament witnessed heated protests after 49 other opposition MPs were suspended, bringing the total number of banned MPs to 141.
The opposition on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of attacking democracy after suspending a record number of 78 MPs in one day.
Most lawmakers were banned from attending the winter session, which ends on Friday.
But about two dozen of them may have to stay away longer, depending on the decision of Parliament’s Privileges Committee.
Most of the suspended MPs are part of the All India Alliance, a coalition of opposition parties that hopes to defeat Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in next year’s general elections.
The coalition includes 142 deputies out of 543 members in the Lok Sabha – the lower house of Parliament – and 95 of them have been suspended from membership so far. It has 101 MPs in the 250-member Senate or Rajya Sabha (a few seats are vacant) – 46 of whom are suspended.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said on Tuesday after his suspension: “Unfortunately, we have to start writing an obituary for India’s parliamentary democracy.”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused opposition leaders of deliberately disrupting Parliament’s proceedings.
These developments are expected to aggravate the already frosty relations between the opposition and the Modi government.
Many opposition MPs were demanding a statement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah or Modi in Parliament on the security breach that took place last week, in which two people entered Parliament, ignited colored gas and chanted slogans, while two others protested outside Parliament.
Police did not officially reveal the motive, but media reports and families of the accused said the protesters were unemployed and wanted to express their frustration with government policies.
The hack occurred on the 22nd anniversary of the deadly attack on Parliament.
Opposition representatives also requested a discussion in Parliament about the security vulnerability.
Although Modi did not speak in Parliament about this issue, he told an Indian newspaper that “what happened is very serious.”
“There is no need to discuss this matter, there should be a detailed investigation into this matter,” he told Dainik Jagran newspaper.
Shah also did not speak in Parliament, but said at an event that a high-level investigation had been conducted into the incident and accused the opposition of politicizing the security breach.
“The Prime Minister can give an interview to a newspaper, and the Home Minister can give interviews to TV channels,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the opposition Congress party. “But they have no accountability left to Parliament, which represents the people of India.” Mr. Kharge, a Rajya Sabha member, has not yet been suspended.
Manoj Kumar Jha, MP from the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal, described his comment as a “badge of honour”.
“It’s an admission that they are trying to suppress the questions we ask [opposition] He told reporters on Monday.
Some opposition MPs, including Mr Karji, alleged that the government deliberately suspended several opposition leaders to pass important bills without debate.
But Union Minister Piyush Goyal, who on Monday moved a motion to suspend 34 MLAs, described the opposition’s protest as a “pre-planned strategy” to disrupt the work of Parliament and obstruct important bills.
He also accused the Opposition MPs of disrespecting Parliament and insulting the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Speaker of the Rajya Sabha by refusing to heed their requests not to bring protest banners to the well of the House.
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