Opposition MPs Protest Over Mass Suspension, Hold March From Parliament

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Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge led MPs protesting their expulsion.

New Delhi:

Opposition lawmakers suspended from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha over this week and last took out a protest march Thursday morning from the old Parliament building to Vijay Chowk in central Delhi – about a kilometre apart – carrying a large “Save Democracy” banner, and placards “Opposition MPs Suspended! Is This The End of Democracy?” and “Parliament Caged, Democracy Expelled!”

The protest comes amid a bitter row between some of the opposition and the ruling BJP over the expulsion of more than 140 MPs for “unruly conduct”, referring to loud and persistent demands the government answer for the security breach in Parliament last week. The breach was on the 22nd anniversary of a terror attack on the old building, in which nine people were killed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were called on to make formal statements but declined, citing national security concerns. They did, though, speak to the media.

At today’s protest was Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge accused the BJP – which yesterday passed three new criminal laws after most of the opposition was ejected – of not having faith in democracy.

READ | Criminal Bills Passed In Lok Sabha With Most Opposition MPs Suspended

“We wanted to raise Parliament security breach. We are repeatedly requesting Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Chairman to allow us to speak on security breach,” Mr Kharge also told reporters.

“PM Modi, Home Minister should have spoken in the House on security breach… (but) PM spoke elsewhere and did not turn up in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha,” the veteran Congress leader said.

The government has refused to discuss the breach, except to say it is being investigated. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, whose office is responsible for security, has said the full report will be available to opposition MPs, but they are insistent either Mr Modi or Mr Shah address Parliament on this issue.

The Prime Minister spoke to a newspaper this week in what were his first public comments.

READ | “Very Serious, We Need To Know Who’s Behind This”: PM On Parliament Breach

Since the protests began 143 opposition MPs have been suspended from what Parliament’s final full sitting before next year’s general election. Their strength is now less than a third of what it was.

The confrontation over the security breach and the expulsions have been added to by another over Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee’s mocking of Rajya Sabha Chair Jagdeep Dhankhar.

READ | PM Did It Too, Says Trinamool MP, Defending Jagdeep Dhankhar Mimicry

Mr Banerjee has apologised but the BJP has pounced to up its attacks on the protesting MPs, accusing them of disrespect towards Mr Dhankhar, who is also Vice President of India.

READ | “Entire Modi Ecosystem Galvanised On So-Called Mimicry Non-Issue”: Congress

The Congress has responded by declaring the “entire Modi ecosystem” had been activated to spotlight Mr Banerjee’s actions while the BJP’s Prathap Simha, whose office issued visitor passes to the Parliament intruders remains a MP and has not been questioned so far.

READ | BJP MP Who Facilitated Intruders’ Entry Not Questioned Yet: Congress

Meanwhile, Mr Kharge – one of a handful of opposition MPs not yet suspended – also told reporters that members of the INDIA bloc will stage a second protest at the Jantar Mantar n Friday.

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