New Delhi, August 4: Relations between the government and the opposition nosedived yesterday escalating confrontation further as 25 of 44 Congress MPs were suspended from Lok Sabha for five days for unruly behaviour, forcing Congress and nine other parties to announce a boycott in protest.
The dramatic action by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was denounced as a "black day for India and democracy" by agitated Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, whose party warned that the development would find its echo in the Rajya Sabha which is already in turmoil.
Congress' remaining Lok Sabha members, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, will boycott the House tomorrow in protest against the suspension. Party MPs will stage a dharna in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament House.
The cracking down on Congress members is the first such disciplinary action in the current Lok Sabha at a time when the monsoon session so far has been a washout due to the relentless agitation by the Congress members over Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues.
Though the BJP and ministers strongly defended the Speaker's action, there were indications that the government could move for softening the punishment by urging the Speaker to reconsider her decision in an attempt to restore order.
This is not the first time members en masse have been suspended. In March 1989, 58 opposition members were suspended following protests on the floor. Later five more were added.
There have been suspensions on at least three occasions in the last three years of up to 16 members in one go.
The Speaker took the decision holding the members guilty of "persistently, wilfully obstructing" the House by displaying placards and shouting slogans.
The action came close on the heels of the all-party meeting convened by the government which failed to break the impasse. .