‘A country cannot be run on lines that everyone should be in agreement and those who disagree should be silenced.’
‘If this is how they look at democracy, then I can only wish good luck to the future of parliamentary democracy in India.’
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi is among the 12 Rajya Sabha members from the Opposition who have been suspended from the Upper House for the duration of the ongoing winter session of Parliament, for their unruly behaviour in the previous session.
Soon after her suspension, she said, ‘Suspension is the government’s tactic to silence the Opposition.’
In an interview to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Chaturvedi speaks about how the Narendra Damodardas Modi government is systematically trying to suppress Opposition voices in Parliament and why the suspension of 12 MPs is a mockery of democracy.
The Rajya Sabha is called the House of Elders and yet we are witnessing its members’s suspension, disruption of the House, etc.
Absolutely, it’s where democracy is mocked at and the Constitution is bypassed.
Parliamentary democracy does not hold the respect and dignity that it used to and what our forefathers envisaged for India. And just because by virtue of the government having more numbers it can pass any motion which is undemocratic, which goes against the rule book of parliamentary procedure?
This just says that they are mocking the entire celebration of the 75th year of India’s Independence on its face.
Isn’t it true that on August 11 Opposition MPs were dancing and whistling in the House which behaviour has led to the current suspension of 12 MPs?
That is not true at all. The ones who were dancing were allowed to go. The ones who were creating a noise and ruckus are not even listed in these 12 names who have been suspended.
But that is not the point, the point is that on August 11 in a Business Advisory Committee meeting the Opposition and the government had decided that the insurance bill will neither be tabled nor will it be discussed in Parliament on the last day of the monsoon session.
However, just before declaring sine die the bill was introduced and passed in a din.
We must understand that the insurance bill impacts lakhs of workers who are employed in insurance companies as well as investors. Once it goes into the private hands of a few you do not know what happens to the hard-earned money of the investors, they could either lose it or their returns can get much reduced.
We were asking the Government of India how can they bring a bill when it was pre-decided with them that this particular bill will not be tabled in that particular session. However, they continued riding rough shod over the Opposition. There could have been some scenes, but I am sure people do understand these things.
We must understand that some released footage which is also under the control of Government of India, but it does not show how marshals were pushing and shoving women parliamentarians. Female marshals were put forward as soon as male members of Parliament came to the well of the house. All of that has been conveniently done away with. This shows one part of the story.
Second part, none of those people who are suspended were called to give their version. What kind of mockery of processes is this?
When you say that the 12 suspended MPs, including you, were not dancing and whistling in the Rajya Sabha, why then were you all targeted?
I think very clearly the government is thinking to bring in these unconstitutional ordinances to extend the tenure of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate chief. That is why they want a reduced strength of Opposition in Parliament, especially in the Upper House where they do not have a majority.
They want to pass these bills unconstitutionally, without a discussion, just the way they passed the three farm laws which disturbed the federal structure of India and they repealed it too without discussion.
This government does not want to hold itself accountable.
It does not want to answer questions and perhaps that is the reason they bypassed all parliamentary norms and procedures to suspend the 12 MPs.
Are you saying there is a sinister design from the government’s side to reduce the Opposition strength in the Rajya Sabha so that the government gets a majority and can pass any bill they want to in both Houses of Parliament?
Absolutely. This is democracy rule number 420. I say it with total respect to how parliamentary democracy functions.
What is happening now is a mockery of democracy. So whatever rule that is being quoted is democracy rule number 420 being applied by the Bharatiya Janata Party to ensure its work gets done without any questions and without any discussions and debate.
If this is how the future of democracy looks, then let us have a museum rather than designing the Central Vista for India’s democracy. There is no need for Parliament, they (BJP) should lock this Parliament.
Didn’t Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu gave you all time to apologise?
There was no time given to us. There was nothing done as it was done on the last day of the session. Just some television statements were read out by the BJP which too was selectively leaked. They continued to do that and yesterday I was challenging it.
Every time we speak up for the people of this country this government has problems.
I challenged them if there is any call records to show that I got a phone call from the chairman’s office or from the deputy chairman’s office or from the parliamentary affairs minister to hear my version, then I will be guilty as charged; however, that hasn’t happened.
The point is simple — raising the voice of the people, raising the voice of farmers, raising the voice of the people is a huge problem for the BJP.
Naidu also made a statement calling for debate rather than disruption.
A very simple question. What is the debate time allotted to the Opposition?
Yesterday the country witnessed how the three farm laws were repealed without the Opposition even being heard.
If you are introducing a bill or tabling a bill whether for bringing a new law or repealing a law, it has to be discussed. But you (the Opposition) are not allowed to discuss, so what discussion are we talking about?
There is no discussion happening, and that is the basic, core point.
I would say go back in history to see how the Gujarat assembly functioned under the then chief minister Narendra Modi and you will have your answers.
On the first day of every two-day Gujarat assembly session during the Modi regime all the Opposition MLAs would get suspended and on the second day they would pass their bills. This is how democracy worked in Gujarat under the leadership of chief minister Narendra Modi.
The same model is now being applied in Delhi.
I want to ask all the honourable office-bearers, is this the democracy that you want to leave behind for your children?
Parallels are also drawn to how the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which includes your party, suspended BJP MLAs in the Maharashtra assembly. at that time nobody thought of democracy being in danger. As a Shiv Sena member of Parliament, what is your comment?
There can be no parallel to this suspension of MPs in the history of India.
For any unruly behaviour, if so-called unruly behaviour is judged by the chair of the House, the action is taken there and then.
On that day itself and the person stands suspended if the chair chooses for the rest of the session or for 2-3 days of the session. But rolling over to another session (as in the RS MPs suspension) is unheard of. It goes against the parliamentary rule book.
When I was administered the oath by the chairman, I was given a rule book on parliamentary procedures. I went as per the rule book and I find it disturbing, and it should concern the people of this country, that every time someone raises their voice for the people of this country, they will silence it just because they have the numbers.
In a democracy if the government has the power, then the Opposition has the authority to hold them responsible to the people of this country.
Can there be a new normal on decency in future between the Opposition and the Modi government?
I would hope there is a new normal.
If the Opposition is allowed to speak for the farmers of this country, lakhs of insurance workers of this country, on price rise, against snooping that is happening in this country, then perhaps we can have some civilised debate.
Even the United Kingdom model allows the Opposition to set the agenda for some days of business.
You cannot allow your agenda to reign supreme. And even if it is your agenda, that is your priority, allow other voices to be heard.
A country cannot be run on lines that everyone should be in agreement and those who disagree should be silenced.
If this is how they look at democracy, then I can only wish good luck to the future of parliamentary democracy in India.
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