NEW DELHI: A combative Congress led by Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday demonstrated against the five-day suspension of its 25 MPs from the Lok Sabha under the Gandhi statue in Parliament forecourt, with black-bands on their arms undeniably becoming the centre of a debate that is waiting to take place inside the House.
The irony could not be missed. More so when Sonia raised her fist and shouted slogans and talked of “murder of democracy’’ with her party MPs young and old, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and top leaders A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge in attendance. Kamal Nath, the longest serving Parliamentarian, who has hardly been present in the current or past sessions, resurfaced to lend his voice to the protest.
The Congress chief’s reclusive political secretary Ahmed Patel, never known to come before TV cameras, did so on Tuesday. “Today we’re demonstrating here and elsewhere in the states--the suspension is unacceptable.’’ A change was evident. What the Congress leadership could not do in terms of keeping the flock together and the Opposition camp united, one decision of suspension had achieved. Though the other parties did not join the Congress dharna, except for NCP leader Supriya Sule’s fleeting presence, they all boycotted the House in protest. The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned as there was no quorum to run the House, but the Lok Sabha passed the Railways Appropriation Bill.
The Congress demands were laid out yet again by a visibly angry Rahul Gandhi: “I reiterate Sushma Swarajji has broken the law. Thousands of young people’s lives have been destroyed in Madhya Pradesh Vyapam scam. There’s inconvertible evidence that the Rajasthan CM has financial dealings with Lalit Modi. We’re not making the demand for resignation, the people of this country are. The PM must listen to the Hindusthan ki Mann ki Baat,’’ he quipped.
The BJP Parliamentary Board passed a hard-hitting resolution soon enough condemning the Congress disruptions and demonstration. But the Opposition appeared to be resolutely on the other side of the fence.
While the NCP, the TMC, the JD(U), the Muslim League(IUML) and the RSP boycotted the House with the Congress MPs, the Left, the SP and the RJD staged a walkout right after the Lower House met, to register their protest against the suspension order. Quite surprisingly, BJD leader Tathagatha Satapaty stood up to tell the Chair that it was not fair conduct of the proceedings of the House in a democracy without the Opposition’s presence, even though he remained seated. AIADMK MP P Venugopal was disallowed by the Speaker. The disquiet, therefore, was not continued to nine parties who’re supporting the Congress. But what sparked speculation that the suspension order may be revoked by Wednesday/Thursday was the Shiromani Akali Dal’s(SAD) intervention. Though an NDA partner, they requested Sumitra Mahajan to reconsider her decision just as SP chief Mulayam Singh, a veteran in politics, did.
“It’s an unlawful decision. She should reconsider it,’’ is how Mulayam put it. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury too hinted that under the mounting pressure, the Speaker may curtail the suspension. “Rule 374 A has never been invoked, it is unprecedented,’’ he added.