Modi’s opposition furious as India suspends 141 parliamentary members

NEW DELHI — India suspended dozens of lawmakers from its parliament Tuesday, with opposition members accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party of orchestrating a power grab.

The lawmakers were suspended for disrupting parliamentary proceedings as they protested a security breach in the chamber after a man jumped into the Lok Sabha, or lower house, this month and set off a smoke canister, shouting slogans and calling for an end to “fascism.”

The Lok Sabha’s speaker has said a review is being conducted, and police have filed terrorism charges against at least five people in connection with the breach.

But opposition lawmakers wanted a debate and a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah.

Modi said the breach was very serious and called for an investigation in an interview published Sunday in a Hindi-language newspaper, Dainik Jagran, but he said, “There was no need to debate this.”

The 49 lawmakers were suspended after 78 other lawmakers were suspended Monday and 14 more last week, bringing the tally to 141 across the upper and lower houses, all of whom belong to opposition parties.

Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has majorities in both houses, is now almost unopposed as multiple contentious draft laws are set to be debated in the parliament.

The suspended lawmakers, most of whom are part of the “INDIA” coalition that is trying to dethrone the BJP in next year’s national elections, called the move dictatorial.

India's ruling Hindu nationalist party won in three of four state elections, according to results released Sunday from a crucial vote that pitted the main opposition party against that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi before national polls next year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the opening day of the winter session of parliament in New Delhi on Dec. 4. Manish Swarup / AP

The government “does not want the people of India to hear out the Opposition, while these Bills are debated and deliberated,” Mallikarjun Kharge, the president of the Congress party, said Tuesday on X.

Indian Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar said Wednesday on X that he received a telephone call from Modi, who “expressed great pain over the abject theatrics of some Honourable MPs.”

The decisions of the presiding officers of the upper and lower houses to suspend the lawmakers were broadcast on parliament’s television channel.

Opposition Congress party member Karti Chidambaram said the suspensions were a trend.

“Their approach is clear: It’s my way or the highway. If you don’t fall in line we will throw you out, because we have the majority,” he said.

Although disruptions and protests are not unusual in the parliament, Monday’s suspensions were the most ever during a single session.

The parliamentary membership of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s primary leader, was canceled after he was convicted of defaming Modi by a local court in Modi’s home state, Gujarat, in March. He returned to parliament in August after the country’s top court overturned the decision.