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No-confidence motion against LS Speaker, ‘satyagraha’ — how Congress plans to counter Rahul’s disqualification

TMC unlikely to support no-confidence motion against Speaker. Congress to hold ‘Jai Bharat Satyagraha’ to protest Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification & govt's refusal to JPC on Adani.

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New Delhi: The Congress is deliberating the introduction of a no-confidence motion against Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla — albeit a ‘symbolic’ one — over the issue of former party president Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lower House of Parliament, ThePrint has learnt.

The idea was floated by senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) Monday, said a Congress MP who attended the meeting and did not wish to be named. The meeting was chaired by CPP chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

According to Parliament rules, a no-confidence motion can be introduced only in the Lower House and has to be supported by at least 50 Lok Sabha MPs to be considered. Once it is introduced, the Speaker can allot a date for discussing the motion but within 10 days from the date of introduction.

Other like-minded opposition parties are being approached to come together and move the motion but their responses are awaited, said the Member of Parliament quoted earlier.

A second Congress MP who was also at the CPP meeting said the no-confidence motion is “most definitely on the cards and may be introduced Monday” in the Lower House. “There is a unique problem that we face, there are some parties with us who are only present in the Rajya Sabha, but do not have an MP in the Lok Sabha,” the legislator added.

At least three other opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress (TMC), have confirmed to ThePrint that they have been approached by the Congress regarding the no-confidence motion and were considering the same. 

However, the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, which has been hot and cold with the Congress in recent times, is likely to oppose the motion. “We want the attack to be consistently on Modi, Shah and the BJP. No one else. A no-confidence motion against a constitutional position may not be the best way to go forward,” said a TMC leader who did not wish to be named.

The TMC, while disagreeing with the Congress’ demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into allegations against the Adani Group, had come out in support of Rahul Gandhi after his disqualification. The Trinamool has been pushing for a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the findings of US-based short seller Hindenburg Research.

Leaders of the Trinamool Congress were also among those present at a dinner for opposition leaders organised at Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence Monday. At least 17 other opposition parties were represented at the dinner with the exception of the Shiv Sena (UBT) which has objected to Gandhi’s remarks against V.D. Savarkar.

Asked about the proposed no-confidence motion, Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh refused to either confirm or deny that the party was considering such a measure. At a press conference held at the AICC headquarters in Delhi Tuesday, Ramesh said issues with the Shiv Sena were being “worked out”.

When pointed out that there are four working days left before Parliament is to be adjourned sine die for the ongoing Budget session, a third Congress MP said that the no-confidence motion, if introduced, would be “symbolic”.

Congress sources said the party’s top legal minds are working on a draft motion. 

One of the grounds on which the party will move the motion will be the lack of the President’s assent which — according to Article 103 (1) of the Constitution should have been sought before the disqualification, sources added. The article states that the decision to disqualify an MP lies with the President. Section (2) of the same article says that the Election Commission must be consulted before the President takes a call on disqualification.

Sources within the party also said that the Congress is still deliberating on other arguments that can be put forth.

Also Read: BJP will take Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Modi insult’ to India’s villages in new campaign for OBC outreach

Month-long ‘Jai Bharat Satyagraha

Further, the Congress party has announced its plan to hold a month-long agitation — ‘Jai Bharat Satyagraha’ — to protest Rahul’s disqualification and the central government’s refusal to form a JPC to probe allegations against the Adani Group.

“Since the conviction (of Rahul Gandhi in a 2019 criminal defamation case), our entire cadre has been out on the streets. Not only our cadre, but we are also getting support from the general public all over India,” Congress general secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal said Tuesday, while addressing the press conference with Jairam Ramesh.

“Rahul Gandhi is not worried about his house,” he added, reacting to a notice sent to the disqualified MP from Kerala’s Wayanad asking him to vacate his official bungalow at 12 Tughlak Lane within 30 days. The notice was sent by the Lok Sabha House Committee chaired by Navsari MP and Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief C.R. Paatil.

“But this entire process is a way of trying to intimidate him (Rahul) because he has been speaking against the Adani scam,” Venugopal alleged.

He added that the ‘Jai Bharat Satyagraha’ will be an extension of the day-long nationwide ‘Sankalp Satyagraha’ organised by the party Sunday and will begin on 28 March.

Between then and 9 April, block and mandal level committees of the party will organise satyagrahas (non-violent sit-ins) across the country. “There will be clear-cut corner meetings at the block level and mandal level to highlight the vindictive politics of the Modi government and the loot of Adani scam,” said Venugopal.

On 1 April, the party’s SC/ST, OBC and minority cells will organise a satyagraha in front of an Ambedkar statue in each state. Thereafter, on 6 April, the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) — youth and student wings of the Congress respectively — will hold a postcard campaign against Prime minister Narendra Modi and send postcards to the PMO asking for a JPC probe into the “Adani scam”.

From 15 to 20 April, district committees of the party will organise satyagrahas, followed by a state-level satyagraha in each state from 21 to 30 April. A national-level ‘Jai Bharat Satyagraha’ will also be organised in the national capital in the second week of April.

The Congress is also hoping to reach out to other opposition parties and members of the civil society to join the protests. 

Moreover, a war room will be set up in each state, besides one in Delhi, to monitor the protests. “We will be on the field for one month. We are not scared. We will raise the Adani scam which the government has been running away from, in Parliament,” said Venugopal.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: In Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification, Modi-Shah lay an electoral trap for Congress


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