Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday launched a blistering attack on the BJP-led Centre over the bulk suspension of Opposition members from both Houses of Parliament, saying democracy has been strangled by the government.
A total of 141 MPs — 95 from Lok Sabha and 46 from Rajya Sabha — were suspended over two raising a ruckus and disrupting proceedings in both Houses over a demand from Union Minister Amit Shah on the Parliament security breach incident.
However, Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi skirted comments on the suspension of Opposition members.
Addressing the Congress’s Parliamentary Party Meeting on Wednesday, Sonia said, “Democracy has been strangulated by this government. Never before have so many Opposition Members of Parliament been suspended from the house, and that too, simply for raising a perfectly reasonable and legitimate demand.”
“All that the opposition Members of Parliament asked for was a statement to be made by the Home Minister in the Lok Sabha addressing the extraordinary events of December 13. There are no words to describe the arrogance with which this request was treated,” she added.
The party chairperson said the incident on December 13 could be justified.
Hitting out at the ruling BJP, she said, “What happened on December 13 is inexcusable and cannot be justified. It took four days for the Prime Minister to address the nation and express his views on the incident, and he did so outside of the Parliament. By so doing, he clearly indicated his disdain for the dignity of the house and his disregard for the people of our country. I leave it to you to imagine how the BJP would have responded had they been in opposition today.”
Earlier, Rahul, speaking to reporters, claimed that the December 13 security breach was the fallout of ‘unemployment’ and ‘inflation’ in the country.
On the Bills pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir that were passed recently by the Parliament, Sonia said, “This session has seen the passage of some important Bills relating to Jammu and Kashmir. Those who distort history and twist historical facts just to defame great patriots like Jawaharlal Nehru have been running a relentless campaign. In these efforts, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have taken the lead themselves, but we will not be intimidated or cowed down. We will persist in telling the truth.”
“Our position on Jammu and Kashmir has been clear and consistent: Full statehood must be restored immediately, and elections must be held at the earliest. The aspirations of the people of Ladakh are equally important, they must be addressed and shown the respect they deserve,” the Congress leader added.
On the Women’s Reservation Bill, the veteran Congress leader said, “We believe that the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill with a rider – that it shall only be implemented after delimitation or a census, is an eyewash intended to mislead women and garner their votes while reneging on that which is rightfully owed to them.”
“Women’s representation in parliament is long overdue. There is no time to waste. It is our firm belief that reservation for women must be implemented immediately and it should cover women belonging to all communities including the OBC community. I congratulate our party colleagues in Telangana for working towards the assembly elections with dedication and determination. The people of Telangana have given us a clear mandate. We must strive our utmost to fulfil their trust and confidence,” she added.
Expressing her happiness over the passage of the Bill to set up a Central Tribal University in Congress-ruled Telangana, Sonia said, “I am happy that this session saw the passage of the Bill to establish a Central Tribal University in Telangana. This was a commitment enshrined in the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act, 2014. It has taken a government that prides itself on its efficiency, nine long years to fulfil that promise”.
On the party’s rout in the Assembly elections to Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress leader said the party’s ideology and values are the guiding light at this difficult time.
“To say that the assembly election results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been very disappointing for our party is an understatement. The Congress President has already had a first round of reviews to understand the reasons for our poor performance and draw the needed lessons for our organization. We are facing enormous challenges, yet I am confident that our fortitude and resilience will see us through,” she said.
“Our ideology and our values are our guiding light at this difficult time. We must never forget that our leaders fought against insurmountable odds, with great courage and fortitude, to give us our freedom,” the Congress chairperson added.
Stressing the importance of looking ahead to the Lok Sabha polls next year, Sonia said, “The Lok Sabha elections will be held in the next few months. We have our task cut out both as a party in our own right and also as a member of the INDIA group. The Congress President has already launched our poll preparations. The rally being organized in Nagpur on our Foundation Day is a significant step in this direction.”
“The issues at stake are fundamental. This government has conducted a systematic assault on democracy and the institutions that are its essential pillars, including Parliament,” she added.
Further hitting out at the Centre, she said, “Diversity has been the strength that has distinguished India among the nations of the world. We have always been proud of the manner in which diverse religions, castes and ethnicities have co-existed and participated in building our beautiful nation. However, the actions of this government and the BJP have methodically weakened the very spirit of this unity. The Constitution of the Republic of India is under attack. Economic inequalities are widening. There is a significant gap between the Prime Minister’s boasts about economic growth and the ground reality.”
“Unemployment is soaring higher than in decades, and wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a select clique of industrialists. Prices of everyday commodities are skyrocketing. The poor are suffering. It is imperative that we take these issues to the public. It is equally our duty to fight with all our might against the forces that are damaging the social fabric that has sustained our nation throughout,” she added.
She also thanked the party’s national president Mallikarjun Kharge and other party leaders for their hard work and support.
“Friends, before closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kharge-ji on our collective behalf for the leadership he has demonstrated over the past year. My thanks also go out to our CPP office bearers for all their hard work and support. I am also grateful to all our colleagues and workers for campaigning tirelessly for the recent assembly elections. We must channel our disappointment into a positive drive for the coming general elections,” she said.
“You are well aware of the innovative campaign that has been launched to strengthen our party’s finances, its importance cannot be minimized. I am confident that each and every one of you will do your part to ensure that it remains a sustained and successful effort,” she added.
“Finally, as Chairperson of the CPP, I am deeply grateful for the unstinted co-operation I have received from all members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. I wish you all the very best for 2024 and beyond,” Sonia signed off saying