An aggressive Congress launched a clamorous campaign on Tuesday inside and outside Parliament against the Lok Sabha speaker’s decision to suspend 25 of its lawmakers for disrupting the House, a step that party chief Sonia Gandhi termed “murder of democracy”.
Congress MPs including former prime minister Manmohan Singh and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi wore black armbands and many flashed placards, vowing to keep up pressure on the BJP-led government over a demand for the resignation of three top ruling party leaders hit by a wave of controversies.
“It’s the duty of the government to run the House. The way our MPs were suspended, was anti-democratic. Democracy is being murdered,” Sonia Gandhi told the media as she too, in a rare occurrence, wore a black armband and shouted slogans.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s move on Monday to suspend the more than two dozen MPs for five days over “wilfully obstructing the business of the House” sparked a display of opposition unity, with many parties showing solidarity with the Congress.
“Down with Narendra Modi”, “we want justice” and “shame on you dictator”, shouted the Congress lawmakers who gathered in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the main gate of the Parliament building, with members of the SP, AAP and RJD joining the sit-in.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after opposition members protested against the government and accused it of being “dictatorial”.
The opposition unity was also on full display inside the Lok Sabha where MPs from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, AAP, JD(U), Indian Union Muslim League and NCP boycotted proceedings. Leaders of the Left parties, SP and RJD walked out in protest soon after the House met.
“The decision is unlawful,” said SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, urging Mahajan to reconsider the move.
The Speaker’s action came after repeated warnings to Congress lawmakers not to carry placards to the House with the party leading the opposition in uproar that has not let Parliament function for a single day in this monsoon session.
The Congress has been demanding the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who have been accused of aiding controversial former IPL chief Lalit Modi, and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam examination and recruitment scam.
“We will not budge from our stand and there will be no let up in our pressure as far as issues of corruption, Sushma Swaraj and Vyapam are concerned,” Rahul Gandhi said. “Vyapam scam has destroyed the future of thousands of people in MP. There is clear evidence that Sushmaji has broken the law, and I repeat, Sushmaji has broken the law. There is clear evidence that the Rajasthan CM was directly involved financially with Lalit Modi.”
The ruling side was quick to hit back, saying the Congress was driven by “ineptitude” and its “jealousy” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “successes”.
“I am surprised that the Congress is talking about democracy. The whole party is undemocratic. To see it use the language of democracy is like Satan reading the Bible,” union minister Prakash Javadekar said. “There is no democracy in its DNA. Even today, a mother is party president and her son its vice-president.”