Bolstered by support from most opposition parties, Congress on Tuesday took to the streets to mount a frontal attack on the Narendra Modi government over the suspension of its 25 MPs, terming it as “murder of democracy” and demanding that Prime Minister hear the “voice of the country”.
Leading the assault from the front, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi, sat on a dharna in the Parliament House complex, shouted slogans and declared that the campaign for resignation of BJP leaders will continue even if all its members are “thrown out of Parliament”.
“Suspension of our MPs is anti-democratic. Democracy is being murdered,” said Sonia, as she, in a rare occurrence, raised slogans along with top party leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, A K Antony and Anand Sharma against the Speaker’s decision. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present.
“We will not budge from our stand and there will be no let up in our pressure (on government) as far as issues of corruption, Sushma Swaraj and Vyapam are concerned,” Rahul told reporters, making clear the party’s intent to carry on with its belligerent posture on the issue of resignations of top BJP leaders accused of wrongdoing.
“Vyapam scam has destroyed future of 1000s in MP. There is clear evidence that Sushmaji has broken the law. Clear evidence that Rajasthan CM (Vasundhara Raje) directly involved financially with Lalit Modi,” he said.
Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on the issue, the Congress leader took a swipe at him, saying though he made his voice heard through his radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’, he was not prepared to listen to the “voice of the country”.
“I am not asking for their resignation, the Congress is not asking for their resignation but the people of India are asking for their resignation. I am only trying to explain to the PM the voice of the people of the country. The Prime Minister has the habit of making his voice heard (Mann ki Baat), let him listen to the voice of the country,” he said.
“Down with Narendra Modi! We want justice! Shame on you dictator!” chanted the agitated Congress MPs as they sat near the Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, wearing black arm bands as a mark of protest.
Leaders of other opposition parties like Samajwadi Party and RJD too joined them in the protest.
The decision by Lok Sabha Speaker is “unlawful”, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, as he asked her to reconsider it. In a rare show of unity, besides the Congress, MPs of the Trinamool Congress and NCP boycotted Lok Sabha proceedings and those of the Left, SP and RJD walked out soon after the House met.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the suspension of 25 Congress MPs was “no way” of resolving the issue.
“The Congress has raised (the issues) before the country, before the government and before Parliament. We want Parliament to run smoothly. It is the responsibility of the government to take into account the concerns that we have been voicing. Certain ministers whose conduct is not in line with…Parliamentary traditions… We are fully justified in demanding that these ministers should be asked to submit their resignation,” Singh said.
The Congress Vice President charged that what was being done with Congress MPs was being done throughout the country be it with college students, on the Internet, various institutions or the farmers.
“On the land issue, Congress stood in front of them. They (govt) shouted, threatened and later ran off. Similarly, on the issue of corruption, Vyapam, on the issue of Rajasthan Chief Minister and Sushma Swaraj, we will not minimise the pressure on them even if they throw us out of Parliament or do not let us enter Parliament,” Rahul said. He said the Congress will ‘gherao’ the government on these issues in the entire country.
Street protests were also organised in several places including Kolkata, Lucknow, Srinagar and Jammu. Angry Congress workers staged protest rallies in several places in West Bengal and burnt effigies of the Prime Minister against the suspension of party MPs. Demonstrations were held outside Raj Bhavan and state BJP headquarters.
Scores of Congress activists, including party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, were detained by police in Srinagar when they tried to march towards Raj Bhavan. A procession by Congress workers led by state unit vice president Sham Lal Sharma was halted in Jammu where prohibitory orders were in place, but there were no detentions.
In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Congress unit chief Nirmal Khatri and senior leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi led a demonstration in front of the state BJP headquarters, demanding immediate revocation of the suspension of party MPs. There was also a minor scuffle between the protesters and the police.