With the opposition deciding to boycott the Rajya Sabha, its eight suspended MPs on Tuesday ended their overnight sit-in inside the Parliament House complex and said they would take their fight against the farm bills to the street.
The suspended Rajya Sabha parliamentarians, who spent the night on the lawns near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in what several old-timers said was the first such overnight protest in the complex, got a surprise visitor in the morning — Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh who came with tea and snacks.
Till late night, the protesting MPs raised slogans and sang songs while a host of Opposition leaders such as National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan and Congress’ Ahmed Patel, Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor visited them to express their support.
But their morning visitor did not receive the same enthusiastic response, said some of the protesting MPs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Harivansh’s gesture was proof of his greatness, adding that his inspiring’ and statesmanlike’ conduct will make every democracy lover proud.
“To personally serve tea to those who attacked and insulted him a few days ago as well as those sitting on Dharna shows that Shri Harivansh Ji has been blessed with a humble mind and a big heart. It shows his greatness. I join the people of India in congratulating Harivansh Ji,” he tweeted.
The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, the protesters said, came early with a posse of news cameras and was told by a senior MP to visit without the cameras and sit with them.
“Another senior MP also told him that while bringing tea was a nice gesture, he was still in the wrong in what he did. He was told he was the one who broke the rules,” a protesting MP told PTI.
Several leaders said they did not accept the tea and snacks offered by the deputy chairman. “I did not have the tea brought by him,” said AAP leader Sanjay Singh.
“Farmers have been cheated. We kept asking for proper voting and we were ignored completely. This is not the time to make friends but to fight for the rights of farmers, and we sat here the whole night to protest against the anti-farmer Bills,” he added.
A motion for the suspension of the eight leaders — Rajeev Satav, Syed Naseer Hussain and Ripun Bora (Congress), Dola Sen and Derek O’Brien (TMC), KK Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem (CPM) and Sanjay Singh (AAP) — was moved by the government on Monday and approved by a voice vote in the House.
They were suspended for the remaining part of the current session over their “misbehaviour” with the deputy chairman during the passage of the farm bills on Sunday.
With the opposition parties boycotting the rest of the session, there was no point in continuing with the dharna, which started on Monday afternoon and ended 24 hours later on Tuesday, said Congress MP Hussain.
“All the opposition parties have boycotted the rest of the session (in Rajya Sabha), nobody is attending the session. They appealed to us to withdraw the dharma and since nobody is attending the session till the suspension is revoked, there is no point in continuing with the dharna,” he told PTI.
His party colleague Rajeev Satav added that they will now hit the streets against the farm bills.
Trinamool Congress’ Sen agreed.
“After many Opposition parties have boycotted the remainder of the Monsoon session of the Rajya Sabha, the dharna at Gandhi statue has ended. Now we will take our fight for the rights of the farmers to every town and village in the country,” she told PTI.
“I demand the government withdraws the black laws passed unconstitutionally without voting. Get the voting done and then see the result. You know you don’t have the required votes that is why you are scared of getting the voting done,” said Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party.
CPM MP Kareem said the fight would continue.
“Opposition decided to boycott the session. Why should we attend if they don’t want us to speak/vote? Govt still not ready for discussion & correct their undemocratic approach towards Parliament. We’ll continue our fight for farmers & resist moves to derail Parliamentary Procedure,” he said on Twitter.
Earlier, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the MPs who spent the night in front of Parliament don’t need tea but justice.
“The BJP government evicted and attacked them because they stood up for farmers. Justice is their right & they will have it. Constitution expects those in power to offer justice, not tea,” he tweeted.
Expressing his deep anguish and pain at the opposition members’ “humiliating” conduct towards him, Harivansh has announced a 24-hour fast, saying he hoped it will inspire a feeling of “self-purification” in them.
Harivansh has been in the thick of things since the suspension drama unfolded.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had rejected a notice for a no-confidence motion against Harivansh as it was not in proper format and did not give a 14-day notice period.
Several opposition parties, including AAP, TMC and the Left parties, led by the Congress walked out from the Rajya Sabha demanding that the suspension of the eight members be revoked. But the government is insisting on an apology first.
Before the walkout, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the opposition will boycott proceedings of the House till the suspension is revoked.
Various opposition parties, including the Congress and the TMC, also boycotted the Lok Sabha in solidarity with the eight Rajya Sabha members.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will consider revoking their suspension only after they apologise for their behaviour in the Upper House.
Later, the Rajya Sabha chairman made a fresh appeal to members of all opposition parties to rethink their decision of boycotting the House proceedings and participate in the discussions.
Naidu, while presiding over the Rajya Sabha, said he had directed the secretary general to get in touch with the Lok Sabha secretariat to ensure the protesters are taken care of properly.
He, however, said the secretary general had shown him instructions issued earlier that members cannot be in the Parliament House complex for any demonstration, dharna, strike, fast or even any religious ceremony.
The Monsoon Session is scheduled to end on October 1. However, the session is likely to be curtailed with several MPs testing positive for COVID-19.