New Delhi: The dragging showdown in Parliament on Monday took an ugly turn as Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 of the 44 Congress members for causing disruptions, forcing the opposition to unite behind a furious Congress.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi branded the decision "a black day for India and democracy", amid signs that the opposition planned to escalate its fight against the BJP-led government both in and outside parliament.
Even as Mahajan justified her decision, the Trinamool Congress announced it would boycott the Lok Sabha for five days. The AAP followed suit but made it clear that it was doing so to denounce Mahajan's decision and not in support of the Congress.
It was another politically tumultuous day, with an all-party meeting convened in the morning in a bid to break the parliament logjam failing to bring peace between the treasury and opposition benches.
The Congress stuck to its demand for the resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the chief ministers of BJP-ruled Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and the government rejecting the demand.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the Congress was being supported by only by two parties -- a reference to the Left and the Janata Dal-United -- and all other parties wanted the house to function.
As the houses met, disruptions erupted in no time in both the Lok Sabha, where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in a majority, and the opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha.
Amid the din in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj described as "baseless and unfounded" allegations that she helped former IPL chief Lalit Modi to secure travel documents from the British authorities.
"I did not make any request to the British government for issue of travel documents to Lalit Modi," she said.
The minister wanted to elaborate but Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien was forced to adjourn the house amid vociferous protests from Congress members who moved towards his chair.
The situation was worse in the Lok Sabha, where Congress members held up placards and shouted slogans, inviting repeated warnings from Speaker Mahajan who told Congress MPs not to hold placards.
After conducting the question hour amid din, Mahajan adjourned the Lok Sabha at noon for some two hours. When the house reassembled, Congress MPs raised the pitch of their protests.
Mahajan then named 25 Congress MPs for "willfully obstructing the business of the house" and announced their suspension. Even as she named the MPs, they continued to shout slogans against the government.
The MPs included Deepender Hooda, Gaurav Gogoi, Sushmita Dev, Ranjeet Ranjan and K.C. Venugopal.
Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day came out strongly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"The 'Mann ki Baat' man appears to retreat into a 'Maun Vrat' whenever there is a scandal involving his colleagues," Gandhi tweeted in one of her strongest attacks on Modi.
"We are not being aggressive just to match BJP's aggression of the past, we are forced to take our position because of BJP's present brazen attitude," she said.
The suspension of the Congress MPs was denounced by Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay who warned that the house won't run "if the government does not want to hear the opposition".
He added: "For the greater interest of parliamentary democracy, we are opposed to suspension of 25 Lok Sabha MPs. We are not attending Lok Sabha from tomorrow."
One suspended MP, Gogoi, said the speaker's action had united the opposition.
"We have got support from the Trinamool, NCP and the Left, who have also decided to boycott the proceedings for five days."
Mahajan defended herself.
"I tried my level best that the house functions but it did not happen. I was warning them since morning that I will have to name them but they were not heeding. The limit was crossed when an attempt was made to shadow the speaker (through placards)," she said.