Twenty five of Congress party's 44 members in Lok Sabha were suspended on Monday for five days for causing disruptions, setting the stage for escalation in confrontation, as nine opposition parties decided to boycott the House for these days to express solidarity with the suspended members.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took the decision, the first such major action in the present Lok Sabha, against the members for "persistently, wilfully obstructing" the House by displaying placards and shouting slogans.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi described it as a "black day for democracy".
The Speaker, after several warnings, 'named' (identifying for action) the 25 Congress members who were in the Well demanding resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over the Lalit Modi row and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
Contending that the members were "persistently, wilfully obstructing the House", she invoked Rule 374(A) which provides for automatic suspension of a member for five days. The Congress has 44 members in all.
Mahajan adjourned the House immediately after. However, a number of the Congress members staged a sit-in in the House.
An angry Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi also did not leave the House for quite some time and were seen holding discussions with leaders of some other opposition parties.
The Rule 374(A) says: "Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the Well of the House or abusing the rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less."
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Modi government was implementing the "Gujarat model" by resorting to suspension of opposition members and then running the House in one-sided manner.
At least nine opposition parties the Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Comunist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Muslim League, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United and the Aam Aadmi Party decided to boycott Lok Sabha for five days along with the suspended members.
Mahajan later said she had taken the decision only to ensure that the House runs properly.
The Speaker's action came after several warnings and despite pleas by TMC leader Sudip Bandhyopadhyay and CPI-M leader P Karunakaran that it would aggravate the situation.
This is the first such major action in the current Lok Sabha. The tenure of the previous House had seen the then Speaker Meira Kumar suspending 16 members from Telangana in February last year under the same rule.
Sonia was angry at the Speaker's decision and asked Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge to lodge protest. Objecting to the action, Kharge said, "Our demand is that the ministers resign. Then everything will be peaceful."
Amid the bedlam, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said there is no FIR, no court observation and no prima facie case against Swaraj as well as the two chief ministers and hence there is "no justification" for them to resign.
The CVC too has not pointed out any wrongdoing, he said, adding, "We have not shied away from discussion and we are ready for it." He said the Opposition has an important role in parliamentary democracy but the House should be allowed to function. His response came when Kharge opposed the Speaker's move to name MPs from his party for disrupting the proceedings.
Before naming them, the Speaker repeatedly told Congress members not to display placards and return to their seats. "Don't force me to take stringent action...you cannot say they disrupted proceedings so we will also do the same...we cannot denegrade ourselves further," Mahajan said.
Bandhopadhyay and Karunakaran urged the Speaker not to suspend the members and the warring parties should be given a change to resolve issue as they are "experienced politicians".
Karunakaran recalled that the BJP had stalled the Lok Sabha as the Opposition party for one month and such an action in the present Lok Sabh could be avoided.
The Speaker said if they are ready to take guarantee for the Congress members, she could have a rethink. Some members from Left parties were also in the Well raising slogans against the government but were not displaying placards.
Significantly, the Speaker's action came soon after an all-party meeting failed to end the logjam in Parliament.
The names of the suspended MPs are:
>> B N Chandrappa
>> Santokh Singh Chaudhary
>> Abu Hasem Chaudhary
>> Sushmita Dev
>> R Dhruvanarayana
>> Ninong Erin
>> Gaurav Gogoi
>> Sukender Gutha
>> Deepender Hooda
>> Suresh Kodikunnil
>> Abhijit Mukherjee
>> Ramachandran M
>> KH Muniyappa
>> B V Nayak
>> Vincent H Palia
>> M K Raghavan
>> Ranjeet Ranjan
>> C L Ruala
>> Tamradhvaj Sahu
>> Rajeev Satav
>> Ravneet Singh
>> Nandi Yellaiah
>> K C Venugopal
>> Thukchom Meinya