Twenty suspended Rajya Sabha members Wednesday started a 50-hour relay protest inside the Parliament complex, with sources saying the Opposition declined the Chairman’s offer that they express regret over their members’ behaviour in the House to get the suspension revoked. They were later joined by four Congress MPs who have also been suspended from Lok Sabha for remainder of the Monsoon session.
The Rajya Sabha MPs are holding the protest near the Gandhi statue and will stay at the site through night, Trinamool Congress’ Dola Sen, who is one of the suspended members, said earlier in the day.
The 20 MPs, suspended over Monday and Tuesday, include seven from the TMC, six from the DMK, three from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), two from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and one each from the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The Nationalist Congress Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha who have no members suspended will also join the protests, sources said. “Question: What were Opposition MPs demanding Answer: A discussion on #PriceRise #GST hurting millions of people Action : Dictatorial @narendramodi govt suspends 24 MPs from #Parliament Next few days 24x 7 dharna at Gandhi statue. Peaceful satyagraha will always WIN,” tweeted TMC’s Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien.
While the Congress and other Opposition parties were protesting at different venues in the morning, by the evening, it seemed they had come together on the issue of price rise. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh visited the site of the protests and said his party will be part of the day-night dharna organised by the other Opposition parties.
“Congress, DMK, TMC, CPM & AAP MPs from both Houses on 50 hour continous dharna by turns in Parliament precincts. They are protesting their suspension for demanding URGENT debate on price rise and GST on food items,” he tweeted later at night. “There’s a 170% increase in suspension of MPs under Modi govt compared to UPA. 24 MPs suspended this Monsoon session alone!” he said.
“We are fighting the Modi-Shah onslaught on democracy and it’s clear that the Modi regime will be seen as a black spot in Indian history. All four Lok Sabha MPs are standing in solidarity with RS MP and are sitting in batches,” said Manickam Tagore, one of the four Congress MPs suspended from Lok Sabha.
The CPI, whose one member has been suspended, said in a statement the suspension is an assault on the basic rights of freedom of expression of members of Parliament.
“The suspension of 4 opposition MPs of the Lok Sabha and 20 MPs of the the opposition in the Rajya Sabha including two MPs of the CPI(M) on successive days is a serious blow to the democratic functioning of Parliament. It is the Modi government that has been stubbornly refusing to accept any motion moved by the opposition under the Rules for a structured discussion on the burning problems being faced by the people, destroying their lives, like price rise, unemployment etc.”
Opposition sources also said feelers from the “other side” has indicated that there is a view within the government that suspending 19 opposition MPs at one go in Rajya Sabha was a wrong strategic move and should have been avoided.
In fact, in the morning, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu met leaders of the Opposition parties in RS and an offer was made to them that if they express regret over their behaviour in the House, another resolution will be brought to revoke the suspensions, the sources said. However, none of the leaders acquiesced, saying instead that the government should express regret over the decision of not discussing price rise.
With the suspension of the MPs in RS concluding on Friday, a discussion on price rise will be taken up after that. Sources in the Opposition also told PTI a detailed plan of action has been drawn out for the dharna and a roster of duties created which is being circulated on a dedicated WhatsApp group.
While on Wednesday, idli-sambhar breakfast was organised by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, lunch with curd rice was arranged by the DMK. Dinner will be roti, daal, paneer and chicken tandoori courtesy the TMC. On Thursday, the DMK would be in charge of breakfast, the TRS of lunch and the AAP will arrange dinner, PTI reported.
Sources said the parties have taken upon themselves to appoint leaders to take turns of one to two hours to sit at the site in support of those who have been suspended. In fact parties such as the NCP and JMM who have no members suspended will also join the protests, sources said.
The leaders, however, will have to sleep under the sky, with their request of a tent being denied by the authorities, as no structures can be built, even temporarily inside the premises.
The protesting MPs can, however, use the toilet in the bathroom of the Parliament library.