Hours after the eight suspended MPs of Rajya Sabha protesting on the lawns of Parliament refused tea offered by deputy chairman Harivansh on Tuesday (September 22), the latter declared that he will go on a 24-hour fast to protest against the “humiliating conduct” against him on Sunday.
On Sunday, a ruckus broke out in the upper house of Parliament when Opposition leaders including Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien snatched papers from the chairman’s (Harivansh) table and broke his mic while opposing the passage of two farm bills.
A day later, the eight MPs were suspended by Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for “unruly behaviour”. Their appeal of no-confidence motion against Harivansh was also rejected.
Alluding to the same incident, Harivash on Tuesday said he hopes his fast will inspire “self-purification in those who behaved insultingly” towards him.
“Members engaged in violent conduct in name of democracy, tried to frighten Chair, defied every norm and convention of House,” he said in his letter to Naidu, informing about the fast.
“Whatever happened in front of me on Sep 20 has caused unimaginable loss to dignity of House,” he added.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has said the Opposition will boycott Rajya Sabha till the suspension of the eight MPs is revoked.
The eight MPs including Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, Congress’s Rajeev Satav and CPM’s KK Ragesh, had refused to leave the House despite their suspension on Monday. They had taken their protest to the lawns of Parliament where they spread out sheets and sat holding posters reading, “We will fight farmers” and “Parliament assassinated” all night long.
Their protest which continued past midnight received the support of a large number of opposition leaders. To show solidarity with their protesting colleagues, senior opposition leaders came in hordes including NC leader Faroukh Abdullah, JD(S) Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan, Congress Ahmed Patel and NCP’s Praful Patel.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh sat with the protesting parliamentarians for almost four hours, one of the suspended MPs told PTI as they sang patriotic songs, surrounded by placards hanging on strings with slogans in support of farmers.
“This is the first time ever that a peaceful overnight protest in front of Gandhi statue in Parliament has happened,” protesting TMC MP Dola Sen told PTI.
“This is also the first time that members were openly robbed of their right as MPs to ask for a division (not just a voice vote),” she said.
One of the main concerns for the MPs was the health of two senior leaders who are diabetic — Congress Ripun Boren and CPIMs Elamaram Kareem, who are both over 65 years of age. “We are making sure that we are all hydrated and we have enough water,” TMC MP Derek Obrien said.
“Refreshments are also coming in from the homes of Opposition MPs at regular intervals to ensure that their sugar levels don’t drop. It’s a wonderful team effort and we are not going to stop,” another senior leader said.
An ambulance was kept on standby in case any of the protestors falls ill.
The protesting MPs came well-armed with bedding, blankets and mosquito repellents to spend the night.
“We would like the government to know that this is an indefinite protest,” OBrien said.
AAPs Sanjay Singh said, “We will continue protesting against the farmer bills until the Modi government provides a rationale behind passing these bills without having the required votes”. Old timers said this is the first time in the history of Parliament that an overnight protest has been held on its premises. However, overnight protests have been held in Assemblies, senior leaders said.
Earlier in the day, the government moved a motion seeking the suspension of Derek OBrien (TMC), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Rajeev Satav (Congress), KK Ragesh (CPI-M), Syed Nazir Hussain (Congress), Ripun Boren (Congress), Dola Sen (TMC) and Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M). The motion was adopted by voice vote amid protests. Four of the eight suspended Upper House members had moved resolutions opposing some key bills that appear in the Rajya Sabha List of Business announced for Tuesday. The four MPs are OBrien, Satav, Kareem and Ragesh.
Since they are suspended, their names don’t figure in the List.
During the day, the protests saw MPs from various parties like Congress, CPI(M), Shiv Sena, JDS, TMC, CPI and the Samajwadi Party joining in. In the evening, many Lok Sabha MPs trickled in to show their support to the suspended MPs who were sitting in protest. Other leaders who came by include Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, NCP’s Supriya Sule, DMK’s Kanimozhi and Tiruchi Siva, who carried hot idlis for the protestors from his residence.
The protest by the MPs is being held at a time when around 30 parliamentarians have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
(With inputs from agencies)