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Opposition Uproar as Record 141 MPs Suspended from Parliament

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Dec 21, 2023

In an unprecedented move, the Indian government has suspended a record 141 opposition MPs from Parliament in response to protests and commotions during the ongoing winter session. The mass suspensions have triggered outrage from opposition parties, who accuse the ruling BJP of attacking democracy and stifling dissent.

Mass Suspensions Seen as Attempt to Silence Opposition

On December 21st, the final day before Parliament broke for the holidays, 49 more opposition MPs were suspended – taking the total number barred from the House over recent sessions to 141 [1]. This is the highest number of legislators suspended in India’s parliamentary history.

The MPs have been suspended for the rest of the session for allegedly disrupting proceedings. This bars them from various parliamentary privileges like entering the chamber, serving on committees, or receiving daily allowances [2].

MPs Suspended (As of Dec 21st)
Lok Sabha: 96
Rajya Sabha: 45
Total: 141

Opposition parties see this as an attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to silence criticism and pass legislation without debate. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of “murdering democracy” [3].

Meanwhile, senior BJP leaders have defended the decision. Minister Piyush Goyal stated that the continuous disruptions by opposition MPs left the government no choice [4].

Opposition Announces Nationwide Protests

In response to the suspensions, opposition parties have called for nationwide protests on December 22nd [5]. India Bloc floor leaders also demanded a statement from the Speaker and Chairman on the security breach that triggered the initial suspensions [6].

Additionally, the suspended MPs held a symbolic protest at Delhi’s iconic Jantar Mantar. They sat in silence for two hours while holding placards denouncing the government’s “undemocratic” actions [7].

Congress President Sonia Gandhi broke her silence on the Parliament logjam, stating:

By suspending 24 MPs in the monsoon session and then suspending 19 MPs earlier this week, is the Modi Sarkar attempting to silence the Opposition? The very foundations of our democracy are being systematically attacked [8]

Key Legislation Passed With Reduced Opposition Presence

With the bulk of opposition MPs barred, the government managed to push through key pieces of legislation in both Houses.

On December 21st, the contentious National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill was passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha. The absent MPs were not able to vote or debate the controversial bill that seeks to give more powers to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi over the city’s elected government [9].

Additionally, the Rajya Sabha passed the Teachers Eligibility Test in a rare late night sitting on December 20th. Opposition MPs have alleged the government rushed through important bills while opposition benches remained empty [10].

Scale of Suspensions Criticized as “Coercive”

Constitutional experts have argued that suspension rules are intended for individual unruly MPs, not for disciplining the opposition en masse.

“Suspending a few members for some period of time acts as a warning…But suspension ceases to play that role when carried out in such large numbers” said PDT Acharya, former Lok Sabha Secretary General [11].

Meanwhile, opposition leaders allege the BJP is attempting to intimidate them from carrying out their parliamentary duties.

“Suspension is being used as a coercive tool to silence the minority. It threatens the very edifice of our parliamentary democracy,” said Manoj Jha of the RJD [12].

Modi Accused of Stifling Dissent Through “Undemocratic” Actions

The mass suspension of MPs represents the latest escalation in tensions between the Modi government and opposition parties. The unprecedented scale has been criticized by international observers as undermining democratic dissent.

“This is clearly an attempt by the Modi government to introduce a quasi-presidential democracy,” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [13].

Meanwhile, The Guardian slammed the BJP for “attacking democracy”, writing:

Modi appears to have taken a leaf out the playbook of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán…India’s once vibrant democracy is being slowly strangulated [14].

What Next in Parliament Standoff Saga?

While the winter session has concluded, tensions between the treasury and opposition benches are likely to remain high when parliament reconvenes. The suspended MPs remain barred until the end of the full budget session in April 2024 [15].

Given the BJP’s dominance of both Houses, cooperation from opposition parties will be required to pass major pending legislation. However, the spate of suspensions may have poisoned the well. Opposition solidarity against the Modi government could harden going into the 2024 general elections [16].

As columnist Barkha Dutt concludes:

The pandemonium in Parliament diminishes us all…Both sides need to go back to the drawing board [17].

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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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