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May 23, 2024

Opposition MPs Suspended En Masse from Indian Parliament as Government Pushes Through Legislation

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Dec 20, 2023

In an unprecedented move, the Indian government has suspended over 140 opposition MPs from Parliament proceedings after accusing them of disrupting the functioning of the House. The mass suspension, the largest in India’s parliamentary history, has sparked outrage from opposition parties who allege it is an attempt to stifle dissent and rubber stamp legislation without debate or scrutiny.

Timeline of Events

Tensions between the government and opposition have been building over recent months after several disruption attempts by opposition MPs during the Monsoon Session of Parliament. Things came to a head last week when MPs staged protests in the Well of the House and some allegedly attacked marshalls.

In response, Parliament passed motions suspending over 90 MPs across both houses. Further suspensions followed, bringing the total to 141 (table below). This represents over two-thirds of the opposition strength, leaving the government with a free hand to push through bills.

House MPs Suspended Total Opposition Strength
Lok Sabha 57 193
Rajya Sabha 84 115

The suspended MPs will lose salary and access privileges during the suspension period, which for some extends to the whole Parliament session ending January 8. They have termed their suspension a “badge of honor” earned fighting for people’s issues.

Government Accused of Subverting Democracy

Opposition leaders, constitutional experts and civil society groups have accused the government of subverting parliamentary democracy by silencing dissenting voices.

Congress Parliamentary leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said:

“This government has strangulated the democracy and the Parliament itself. The government wants to pass laws while stifling the voice of opposition.”

Former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, PDT Achary commented:

“The rules provide for suspending individual MPs, not for suspending MPs en masse. This goes against the grain of parliamentary democracy.”

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, leading public intellectual wrote:

“The suspension of MPs is not merely to get legislation through…It is about decimating the Opposition’s ability to get its point of view across.”

Government Defends Move to Maintain Parliament’s Dignity

The government has defended the suspensions saying Opposition conduct amounted to “sacrilege” of Parliament.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the government had no intention of curtailing debate, but some basic conduct rules had to be observed.

“The government only wants that House should function and discussions take place.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to push through long pending bills across sectors ranging from environment to banking amid protests that they are not getting adequate parliamentary debate.

Broader Context and Implications

The developments have fueled accusations that the ruling BJP government has grown increasingly intolerant of dissent under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. Critics argue the party has adopted an authoritarian streak, using its majority to concentrate power by undermining institutions like the judiciary, media and civil society that question its functioning.

It also ties into a broader global trend of democratic backsliding through majoritarian consolidation that has seen figures like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orbán leverage populist appeals to public welfare while simultaneously eroding minority protections and institutional checks and balances.

As India gears up for national elections in 2024, there are concerns that further efforts to weaken opposition forces combined with the advantage of incumbent power may tilt the playing field heavily in favor of the ruling party.

While legislative business may proceed smoothly for now with most opposition benches empty, the latest confrontation also continues a cycle of progressively more corrosive political polarization between the government and opposition that bodes poorly for bipartisan cooperation on major national issues.

Opposition Calls for Protest and Parliament Boycott

India’s opposition parties have called for protests on 22nd December against the suspension of MPs and announced they will boycott Rajya Sabha proceedings until the suspended MPs are reinstated.

In a joint press conference, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said:

This is “murder of democracy” by the Modi government…We will fight this dictatorship all together inside or outside Parliament.

Leaders across parties like the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, SP, BSP and Left slammed the government for its high-handedness and likened the situation to the Emergency period under Indira Gandhi when civil liberties were severely curtailed.

Latest reports indicate the opposition is considering escalating its protests by boycotting Lok Sabha as well once the House reconvenes after Christmas recess on December 28. However, a final decision is yet to be taken.

The coming days will test the limits of the government’s brute power play against a galvanized opposition fighting for its right to dissent before the Indian electorate. The ramifications either way will echo well beyond the next session of Parliament.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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