West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed on Monday that the suspension of eight MPs from the Rajya Sabha reveals the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s “autocratic” mindset. The eight MPs were suspended for their allegedly unruly behaviour while protesting against the government’s three farm bills.
“Suspension of the 8 MPs who fought to protect farmers interests is unfortunate & reflective of this autocratic Govt’s mindset that doesn’t respect democratic norms & principles,” Banerjee tweeted. “We won’t bow down & we’ll fight this fascist government in Parliament & on the streets.”
Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday suspended eight legislators from Opposition parties for a week of the Parliament’s Monsoon Session for their “unruly behaviour” in the Upper House on Sunday during the debate on these bills. These MPs are Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, Rajiv Satav, Ripun Bora and Syed Nasir Hussain of the Congress, Elamaram Kareem and KK Ragesh of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh. But they refused to leave, causing multiple adjournments of the Rajya Sabha. Meanwhile, the Opposition said the members should be given a chance to explain themselves.
Trinamool Congress MP and the chief minister’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee also condemned the suspensions. “What happened in Rajya Sabha is an absolute contempt of Parliamentary proceedings,” he said. “‘Pro-farmer’ ordinances by @narendramodi Ji’s Govt are not just fundamentally flawed, but now the Centre is taking away the right to even vote upon them! All one can say is #BJPKilledDemocracy.”
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury condemned the expulsions too. “I condemn this kind of expulsion of the members of Rajya Sabha in such a brazen and undemocratic manner,” he said, according to ANI. “We will protest to restore the status quo ante of our members in Rajya Sabha.”
The Congress leader alleged that Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh tried to “muzzle and throttle the voices of the opposition parties at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office”, the Hindustan Times reported.
“We have some entitlements,” Chowdhury said. “We are entitled to ask for division according to the rules and procedures enshrined in the parliamentary system. But at the behest of the PMO, the House is being run.” Chowdhury claimed that Harivansh had some obligations towards the government.
“We are also entitled to move a no-confidence motion against the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson if it is found and perceived that he has been playing a partisan role,” Chowdhury said. “The onus is on us to check the deputy chairperson also by applying the instruments that are available to us and we have done so. It is within the ambit of our democratic right and parliamentary system.”
Chowdhury added that the Congress will continue to protest until the suspension of the MPs is revoked.
On Sunday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury called the action of the chairperson “outright totalitarianism”. “This is what our Parliament, temple of democracy, has been reduced to by this Modi government,” he tweeted. “Outright totalitarianism. Safeguard our Constitutional Republic with all our might.”
But Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi criticised the suspended MPs for refusing to leave the House. “When the chairperson names a member. then that member has to leave the House,” he said. “Never before a member defied the orders of the Chair. 8 suspended MPs had misbehaved, it was a type of goondaism. They’ve proved that they have no trust in democracy.”
The controversy over the bills
The three bills are: the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. They have all been passed by the Lok Sabha, while the Rajya Sabha cleared two of them amid great chaos on Sunday.
At one point on Sunday, the telecast of the proceedings was muted as members of Opposition parties gathered inside the well of the House in protest. After a short adjournment, Harivansh Narayan Singh took up the bills, clause by clause, and passed them. But demonstrations continued inside the Rajya Sabha even after the session ended as the deputy chairperson had not agreed for a division of votes.
During the protests against the ordinances, some MPs reportedly broke the microphones on the chairperson’s desk and were seen tearing sheets of paper and throwing them around. While Derek O’Brien from the TMC was caught waving the rule book at the chair, Sanjay Singh of AAP was escorted out by marshals.
BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal has opposed the bills, and said it will reconsider its alliance with the saffron party.
Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala on Monday said that there was not a single line in the three agriculture-related bills on ending the Minimum Support Price, or MSP, and claimed that he would quit from his post if the support price was threatened.
Thousands of farmers in Haryana and Punjab have been protesting against the contentious agriculture bills.