As many as 141 Members of Parliament (MPs) affiliated to the opposition faction from both houses stand suspended today. Who could have guessed that “sloganeering” and “presenting placards” inside the Parliament is as grievous a gesture that invokes such severe ultimatum by the respective chairpersons of the two houses — who ideally should showcase their non-partisanship? Dr Shahi Tharoor, a veteran diplomat, author, and MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, has expressed his anguish and dismay over such a predicament inside the Parliament, where the voices of the opposition have ruthlessly been muzzled.
On December 18th, 33 MPs from Lok Sabha and 45 MPs from Rajya Sabha (78, in total) got suspended within a day — the highest number of suspensions in a day in the history of Indian democracy! Today, nearly 95 out of 133 opposition MPs from the Lok Sabha, including the Leader of Opposition Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, got booted. Each Lok Sabha MP represents an average of 15 lakh people. Do the Math, and you shall see how approximately 15 crore Indians have lost their representation in the Parliament! Did they commit a crime by not voting for the BJP? When the camera zooms in on the podium where the opposition MPs sit (which happens rarely) in the ostentatiously built Lok Sabha, you shall see scores of empty seats which the eminent leaders from the opposition parties like Farooq Abdullah (JKNC), Supriya Sule (NCP), and Manish Tewari (INC) were forced to vacate.
What did they do, you ask? These MPs sloganeered and raised posters while the session/business of the house was underway. Why did they do it, you ask? They were seeking clarifications from Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi for the blatant security breach by four ‘protestors,’ who were granted a pass by BJP MP Pratap Simha inside the Parliament on December 13th. The Home Minister had spoken to the media about the incident outside the Parliament premises, but the opposition was rooting for direct accountability inside the “Temple of Democracy.”
Incessant sloganeering and flagging of posters followed until Union Minister Piyush Goyal raised the notion demanding the suspension of several opposition MPs over ‘disorderly conduct’ and ‘unparliamentary actions’ that “caused disgrace to the nation.” It is ironic how the guardians of decency and decorum in the Parliament had no condemnation toward BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri when he outrightly abused a fellow Parliamentarian (Danish Ali) by hurling communal and degenerate slurs. Did Bidhuri’s despicable conduct inside the Parliament NOT “cause disgrace to the nation?” Danish Ali (BSP) spoke, “This is their ‘New India.’ Those who abuse shall get adorned inside (the Parliament). Those who question the government shall get thrown out.”
As we get along with our lives, three extremely crucial amendment bills are on the verge of getting passed inside the Parliament. These bills shall make questionable amendments to the IPC (Indian Penal Code), the CrPC (Code for Criminal Procedure), and the Evidence Act. Another bill in the Rajya Sabha potentially allows the government to meddle with the appointment and functioning of the Election Commission! The opposition has been screaming its lungs out to draw attention to this matter, as these bills have the potential to transform any vibrant democracy into a police state!
The opposition parties have been tweeting a picture, previously posted by the PMO, where Prime Minister Modi can be seen standing and overlooking waves of empty benches inside the Parliament. It doesn’t matter if you are a BJP supporter or not — do you really endorse that the Indian Parliament does not require any opposition?
Opposition was long driven out of the panels of the mainstream media channels, and today, the Parliament is no exception either. ‘Holding placards’ is derogative to the standards maintained inside the Parliament, but abusing another Parliamentarian isn’t. What does the ruling party try to convey while promulgating phrases like “Congress Mukt Bharat?” You might be a BJP or Congress supporter or might be neither — but as an active proponent of the world’s largest democracy, such an occurrence should compel you to think beyond the spectrum of politics.
“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush but a slow extinction from apathy and indifference.” The sooner we realised, the better.