New Delhi: India’s parliament has become a battleground, with an unprecedented number of 146 MPs suspended and accusations of muzzled dissent flying thick and fast. The latest casualties in this escalating confrontation are three Opposition MPs from the Congress party – DK Suresh, Nakul Nath, and Deepak Baij – who were suspended for “unruly behavior.” This comes on the heels of a protest march by the Opposition bloc, carrying banners like “Save Democracy” and “Parliament Caged,” highlighting their growing unease with the current state of affairs.
The trigger for this turmoil is a security breach in the Lok Sabha earlier this month, where unknown individuals smuggled in and detonated smoke bombs during proceedings. The Opposition has been demanding a statement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah, but the government has remained unresponsive. This has snowballed into a major flashpoint, culminating in the mimicry of Rajya Sabha Chairman by a Trinamool Congress MP and subsequent suspensions of numerous Opposition members.
The Opposition alleges that the suspensions are a deliberate ploy by the government to railroad key bills through Parliament without any meaningful discussion. The depleted Opposition, reduced to one-third of its strength, witnessed the passage of three crucial criminal law amendments yesterday with minimal debate, which they have decried as a “disgrace.”
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram aptly likened the situation to “batting without fielders in a cricket match.” The government, according to him, is pushing through far-reaching laws impacting everyday lives without any scope for dissent or debate. This sentiment was echoed by Shashi Tharoor, another suspended MP, who termed the government’s conduct as an insult to parliamentary democracy.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge leveled even stronger accusations, claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi disrespected Parliament by speaking about the security breach outside but not inside. He sees this as a violation of parliamentary privilege and further evidence of the government’s apathy towards concerns raised by the Opposition.
The situation is further complicated by the perceived absence of accountability from the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to speak about the security breach outside Parliament but not inside has been interpreted as a blatant disregard for the democratic process. As Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge pointedly stated, “He (Modi) talks in Varanasi, Ahmedabad, on TV but not in Parliament. They have disrespected the House. He should come and speak in the House first, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Instead of that he was speaking outside. This is condemnable and it was a violation of privilege (of House).”