Parliamentary Turmoil in India: Record Suspensions Ignite Protests Amid Security Breach Fallout

Featured & Cover Some of the suspended MPs protested outside parliament on Monday

India’s parliament erupted in heated protests as an additional 49 opposition MPs faced suspension, bringing the total to 141, all in response to their protest against a recent security breach within the parliamentary premises. Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of undermining democracy, the opposition witnessed a record-breaking suspension of 78 MPs in a single day. Most of the lawmakers are excluded for the remainder of the winter session, concluding on Friday, while a subset awaits the parliament’s privileges committee decision for potential extended exclusion.

The majority of the suspended MPs belong to the INDIA alliance, a coalition of opposition parties gearing up to challenge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming general election. Of the alliance’s 142 MPs in the 543-member Lok Sabha, 95 have been suspended, while in the 250-member Rajya Sabha, 46 out of 101 members face suspension.

Expressing dismay at the state of parliamentary democracy, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor remarked, “Unfortunately, we have to start writing obituaries for parliamentary democracy in India” following his suspension.

In response, the BJP accused opposition leaders of intentionally disrupting parliamentary proceedings, escalating tensions between the opposition and Modi’s government. Many opposition MPs had demanded a statement from either federal Home Minister Amit Shah or Modi regarding the recent security breach where individuals entered parliament, set off colored gas, and shouted slogans. Six individuals have been arrested, with the four protesters facing charges under an anti-terror law.

While Modi did not address the issue directly in parliament, he acknowledged its severity in a Hindi newspaper interview, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation. Shah, at a separate event, announced a high-level inquiry into the incident, accusing the opposition of politicizing the security breach.

Opposition MPs have also sought a parliamentary discussion on the security lapse. Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Congress party, criticized the government for sidestepping parliamentary accountability while granting interviews to the media. Manoj Kumar Jha, an MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, viewed his suspension as a “badge of honor,” asserting that it recognizes their efforts to pose challenging questions to the government.

Some opposition MPs, including Kharge, alleged that the government strategically suspended key figures to pass crucial bills without proper debate. However, federal minister Piyush Goyal labeled the opposition’s protest as a “pre-planned strategy” to disrupt parliamentary functioning and block essential bills. Goyal accused opposition MPs of disrespecting the parliament by refusing to comply with requests from the Lok Sabha speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman to refrain from displaying protest signs in the well of the house.

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