‘Grim record’, ‘backsliding of democracy’: Newspapers on mass suspension of Opposition MPs

A total of 92 MPs have been suspended in the winter session.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Suspended MPs protesting on the stairs of the Parliament.

A record 78 opposition members of Parliament – 33 from Lok Sabha and 45 from Rajya Sabha – were suspended yesterday for protesting against the Parliament security breach on December 13. 

The MPs demanded a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah, followed by a discussion, while some even sought his resignation, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attendance in the Parliament to issue a statement.

The mass suspension came after 15 other opposition MPs were suspended over the same issue a day after the breach was reported.

The opposition called it a “murder of democracy”. But what did the country’s leading English dailies say?

“78 MPs suspended as Parl gets a grim record,” read Hindustan Times’s lead package on page 1. It said the numbers break the record in terms of suspension across both the houses. A smaller story was on the opposition calling it “extreme dictatorship”.

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Hindustan Times noted that despite the “rash of suspensions, work went on in Parliament”. This included the Lok Sabha clearing the Post Office Bill and the Rajya Sabha passing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Government of Union Territories (Amendment) Bill 2023. 

The Indian Express lead report on page 1 was titled “New Parliament, new record: “78 MPs suspended, highest in a day; Total now 92”. 

It said: “Till now, the highest number of MPs suspended in a single day was on March 15, 1989, when 63 Opposition members were suspended from Lok Sabha over tabling of the inquiry commission report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.”

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Another report in the lead package quoted Mamta Banerjee as saying: “Voice of people choked, super autocracy, why is BJP afraid?” She said the government does not have the “moral grounds” to run the house.

The main story on The Telegraph’s Calcutta edition was headlined “Animated suspensions”. It said the Modi government “appeared to be striving for an Opposition-mukt Parliament”.   

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“A livid Opposition termed the suspension a ‘bloodbath’ and the ‘murder of democracy,’ accusing the government of reaching ever high levels of Tanashahi (dictatorship) to muzzle dissent,” the newspaper said.

It also pointed out that Modi and Shah had not attended the Parliament since the security breach. 

The Hindu’s lead report was titled: “78 MPs suspended: Opposition calls it ‘murder of democracy’”. “In the Rajya Sabha, almost 50 percent of the Opposition strength has been depleted,” said the news daily.   

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Unlike most other newspapers, The Hindu also had an editorial on the government’s “disregard for deliberative democracy”. It said there have been “multiple attempts at browbeating the Opposition, getting Bills passed without adequate discussion, disallowing amendments on merit, and under-utilising standing and parliamentary committees while trying hard to play to the gallery.”

It added: “The recent actions by the government only contribute further to the backsliding of democracy in India, making these developments a matter of serious concern.”

Among English newspapers, Deccan Herald also had an editorial on the mass suspensions. 

It said “in the normal course, the government should have made a suo moto statement on facts available and how the incident was handled...Instead, the government chose to expel the most vocal MPs, accusing them of disruptive and riotous conduct.” 

“The government is using suspensions, expulsions and privilege moves against Opposition members more frequently than at any time in the past. Such actions also amount to depriving voters of their representation in the House.” 

Among those suspended is RJD’s Manoj Jha, who interviewed with Newslaundry soon after. “Congratulations Modiji,” he said. “Your tenure has seen unprecedented suspensions.” Watch the interview here.

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