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Confrontation between the BJP-led government in India and opposition is set to escalate with Lok Sabha (lower house) Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspending as many as 25 Congress members for five days for causing “grave disorder’ in Parliament and for “persistently and wilfully obstructing” the House, PTI reports.

Such an action, rare in the history of Lok Sabha, prompted Congress party president Sonia Gandhi to call it a “Black day for Indian democracy. ”

The Speaker ‘named’ (identifying for action) the 25 Congress members who were carrying placards and shouting slogans in the Well while pressing for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over Lalit Modi row and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over Vyapam scam.

While taking the tough action under Rule 374(A), she said Monday the members were being suspended for “persistently, wilfully obstructing the House”.

She ruled that the ‘named’ members will not attend five sittings of the House. Congress has 44 members in all.

Mahajan adjourned the House immediately after. However, a number of the Congress members staged a sit-in in the House.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi also did not leave the House for quite some time and were seen holding discussions with leaders of some other opposition parties.

Her action came after several warnings and despite pleas by TMC leader Sudip Bandhyopadhyay and CPI(M) leader P Karunakaran that it would aggravate the situation.

The Rule 374(A) says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.”

The move came after the government approached the Speaker attacking the Opposition for obstructing the House for the past several days.

Meeting fails to break logjam

Earlier during the day, an all party meeting failed to break the nearly fortnight-long deadlock in Parliament with Congress unrelenting on its demand for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP CMs Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Government firmly rejecting it.

However, a number of regional parties including Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal voiced anguish over continued disruption of the Houses and asked the two national parties to resolve the matter to ensure that other issues are discussed in Parliament.

The JD(U) and Left parties, however, backed Congress in the meeting.

‘Democracy is give and take’

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after the all-party meet: “The outcome of the meeting is nil, we stand by our demand. Government wants to be the King and they expect the Opposition parties to behave like the subjects. Such things do not work in a democracy. Democracy is give and take.

“Government has not taken any initiative. They want to pass bills. At the same time, they do not want to take concerns raised by Opposition parties on board.

Congress ups ante

The meeting saw the Congress upping the ante against the government after Congress president Sonia Gandhi set the tone for the party’s strident line in a meeting of Congress Parliamentary Party earlier in the day.

“Government came without any proposal. They did not have any suggestion and made only an appeal. The meeting was totally unproductive,” CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury told reporters after the meeting.

Govt. walks extra mile

Rejecting Congress charge that Government was being arrogant in not listening to Opposition demands, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said that the government has always “walked the extra mile” to accommodate Opposition’s views and cited examples of referring GST and Real Estate Bills to Select Committee on the demand of Congress.

While expressing Government’s readiness to discuss any issue and offer intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Naidu at the same time made it clear that there will be “no resignation” as the NDA ministers have done “nothing illegal or immoral”.

He also attaked the Congress for running a “campaign of calumny” against Swaraj, who he said is one of the “best performing ministers” of the government.

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