NEW DELHI -- A day after 25 Congress Party lawmakers were suspended for five days from the Lok Sabha, party president Sonia Gandhi unleashed a scathing attack on the Modi government, while at least nine other opposition parties boycotted the lower house of parliament.
Gandhi today led a protest by Congress Party leaders near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the parliament complex.
"The duty of the government is to make the parliament function. The way they have suspended our members is anti-democratic," she said. "In my opinion, democracy is being murdered."
Her son and vice-president of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi by referring to his "Mann Ki Baat" radio program, and suggesting that he listen to the "mann ki baat" of the people, who want the three senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, embroiled in the Lalit Modi scandal and the Vyapam scam, to resign.
"What is being done to our MPs is being done all over the country...to college students, to the Internet, to all institutions in India, to the farmers," he said.
On Monday, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 out of 44 Congress lawmakers, who, she said, had persistently defied her instructions to not shout and carry placards in the lower house of parliament.
Nine other opposition parties joined the Congress Party in its Lok Sabha boycott including the All India Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India, Janata Dal (United), Muslim League, and the Aam Aadmi Party.
The opposition is demanding the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan before embarking on any other discussion in parliament.
The suspension of Congress Party leaders, followed by the ongoing boycott, is likely to worsen the deadlock which has paralysed the Monsoon Session, while time is running out for the Modi government to introduce critical bills for debate in parliament.
While ruling out the resignation of its leaders, the BJP has attempted to break the logjam by offering to debate recent controversies in parliament. Over the past two weeks, the ruling party has also attempted to isolate the Congress Party within the Opposition, and rake up corruption scandals against its leaders.
Swaraj and Raje stand accused of helping cricket magnate Lalit Modi, a fugitive, who is being investigated by Indian agencies for money laundering and financial irregularities connected with the Indian Premier League tournament. The Opposition wants Shivraj Singh Chouhan to step down over the Vyapam scam.
"There is clear evidence that the chief minister of Rajasthan is directly involved financially with Lalit Modi," said Rahul Gandhi.
"There is clear evidence that Sushma Swaraj ji has broken the law."
"We will not reduce pressure on the issues of corruption, the Rajasthan chief minister, Vyapam and Sushma Swaraj even if throw us out of parliament," he said. "They don't allow us back into the parliament. There is a lot of the country and we will surround them in the whole country."
Shortly after the scandal broke on June 14, the foreign minister admitted to helping Lalit Modi procure travel documents on "humanitarian grounds" so that he could visit his wife while she was undergoing cancer treatment in August 2014.
On Monday, however, Swaraj changed her stand - "I have never requested the British government for Lalit Modi's travel papers. I never asked the British government for any favour," she said in the Rajya Sabha.
I never requested and never recommended to British Government to give travel documents to Lalit Modi.,
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) August 3, 2015
Meanwhile. Raje stands accused of backing Lalit Modi's immigration application in 2011, when she was Leader of the Opposition, on the condition that it would be hidden from the Indian government.
Vyapam is a massive scam which involves politicians and government officials allowing impostors to take exams for government jobs in Madhya Pradesh, and manipulating exam results, in exchange of vast sums of money. Several people connected with scam have died in mysterious circumstances since 2010.
"The Vyapam scam has destroyed the future of thousands and thousands of young people in Madhya Pradesh," said Rahul Gandhi.
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