December 24, 2023
Destruction of Parliament

AN unprecedented 146 opposition members of parliament of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have been suspended for the rest of the winter session.  Apart from the ‘loyal’ opposition MPs belonging to parties like the BJD, YSRCP and AIADMK, there will be no opposition MPs left in either house by December 22.

It is important to recall why these suspensions took place at all. After the December 13 security breach when two men jumped in from the visitors’ gallery into the Lok Sabha with smoke canisters in their hands, the opposition had demanded a statement from the union home minister on the incident and a discussion to follow. This was a reasonable and valid demand to make as the MPs have the right and obligation to ask for accountability for the serious breach of security. 

The home minister did not oblige, but he made remarks on the incident at a media event soon after. This further angered the MPs and on December 18, thirteen Lok Sabha MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP were suspended for presenting this demand.  This was followed by successive rounds of suspensions. 

This heavy-handed approach to the opposition is typical of the Modi government, which has repeatedly displayed its total contempt for the opposition and the norms of parliamentary conduct. The use of suspensions by the presiding officers, at the behest of the ruling party, has grown rapidly in the past years.  Since 2014, 92 MPs have been suspended at various times till the current session. Of these, 23 were suspended in last year’s monsoon session. That number has now grown many-fold.

The government will now pass important legislations like the three criminal law bills without any proper discussion and views of the opposition.

Removing an MP from parliament through suspension is not only suppressing the voice of the member concerned, it is also depriving the people who have elected the member as their representative from getting their views to be heard and ask questions.

The attack on the opposition is only one part of the overall effort to denigrate and curtail parliament. We have seen how legislations are passed post-haste without due scrutiny by parliamentary committees. Within parliamentary committees too, discussions and dissenting voices are sought to be curtailed. The number of sittings of the parliament is getting progressively reduced. The prime minister himself does not deign it necessary to attend parliament on most occasions. 

The opening of the new parliament building has signified an ominous turn for parliament. It is not just the change of a building, the life and essence of parliament has been denuded in the new building. With the snarling Ashokan Lions atop the building and the farcical installation of the Sengol within the Lok Sabha chamber, not only have the appurtenances been radically altered, the drive is to convert parliament into a rubberstamp for the ruling party. 

What we are witnessing is the destruction of parliament itself – the passage from parliamentary democracy to an electoral autocracy. 

(December 20, 2023)

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