Eight Congress MPs from Telangana have been suspended for four days -
through a motion moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar
Bansal - for repeatedly disrupting Lok Sabha proceedings today as the
Budget Session of Parliament resumed after a 22-day break.
In much embarrassment for the ruling party, the MPs, demanding that a
separate Telangana state be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, forced three
adjournments of the lower House.
The government's unprecedented action came after a meeting that the
Prime Minister held with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Suspending its own
members is a serious move; it will mean that for four days the
Congress-led UPA will be eight short in the Lok Sabha and on any issue
could be caught without adequate numbers if the Samajwadi Party and BSP
do not support it.
But the government is keen to send out the message that it means to pass
legislation and run this Parliament session properly. There are a
number of important bills that need to be passed in the Budget Session.
"The decision was taken with a heavy heart as the Telangana MPs were not
listening to us," said V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.
Mr Bansal later said the suspension had nothing to do with the separate statehood issue. "It has nothing to do with demand on the substantive matter. They have only been suspended from the services of the House for four days," he told reporters.
Leader of the Lok Sabha and senior Congressman Pranab Mukherjee met
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and other leaders like Mulayam Singh
Yadav, Sharad Yadav and the Left's Gurudas Dasgupta to try and garner
their support as it made a tough call. There are no big matters that
will be put to vote in Parliament in the next four days.
Even after they were suspended, the eight Telangana MPs - Ponnam Prabhakar, Madhu Yaskhi Goud, M Jagannath, K R G Reddy, G Viveknanda, Balram Naik, Sukender Reddy Gutha and S Rajaiah - sat in the Well
of the House refusing to exit. They later met the Speaker Meira Kumar in
her chamber. The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day without
Up ahead, the government faces other hurdles. The Opposition has come to
the session armed with the issues of Congress leader Abhishek Manu
Singhvi's resignation over a CD, chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu's
"no reforms till 2014" statement and other ammunition to attack the
Mr Singhvi quit as Congress spokesperson yesterday after a controversial
CD, allegedly featuring him, went viral. He also resigned as the head
of the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice. Mr Singhvi
has said the CD is doctored but he has resigned to "prevent even the
slightest possible Parliamentary disruption regarding the purported CDs
being circulated about me." He said that as a "disciplined party
soldier he did not want to inconvenience his party."
The BJP is not buying; it wants Mr Singhvi to explain his decision to
quit in Parliament. "This is a serious matter and the party has so far
restrained itself from speaking on the issue. I hope Parliament will get
an explanation from him on his decision to resign," said Leader of the
Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.
The Congress has defended Mr Singhvi. "I think we shouldn't really
intrude where we shouldn't be intruding. Questions relating to
one's public performance and public office are of course
questions that anyone can ask and I think an appropriate, sensible
balance between all these things should be maintained by everybody- by
us, by public persons, by the media and by anyone who believe they have
the legitimate right to ask questions. I think we just have to have an
appropriate balance and what that balance will be, we'll all have to
decide together," said Salman Khurshid, Law Minister.
Along with Mr Singhvi's resignation, the central government's Chief
Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu's reported remark that "major economic
reforms would hit the road block and are unlikely to happen before the
next Parliamentary elections" may also be brought up by the Opposition.
After the reported statement led to a political storm, Mr Basu had said
that he was quoted out of context.
In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Mr Basu said his remarks were pegged
to the possible European crisis in 2014 and that he believes some
reforms will happen quickly. "There is no divergence of views with
Montek Singh Ahluwalia... My remarks were pegged to the possible
European crisis in 2014... I believe some reforms will happen quickly,"
said Mr Basu.
Then, there is the Congress' truant ally Mamata Banerjee's 15-day
ultimatum that a moratorium be declared on Bengal's loans; another issue
that could have the government struggling. However, along with dealing
with these, it's the huge pile of bills that it has to push through that
is foremost on the government's agenda. Especially the finance bill,
some education bills and the contentious Lokpal Bill.