NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s Parliament was adjourned twice on Monday after lawmakers held rowdy protests and threw paper at the Speaker following the expulsion from the house of top opposition figure Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi lost his Parliamentary seat on Friday after being convicted in a case that critics say shows how the rule of law is under threat in the world’s largest democracy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Speaker called off proceedings less than a minute after opposition MPs wearing black erupted in shouting, some of them throwing bits of paper at him.
“I want to run the House with dignity,” Speaker Om Birla said.
The session resumed several hours later only to be abandoned again after about 10 minutes as opposition MPs chanted anti-Modi slogans and waved “Democracy in danger” placards.
It was the latest in a string of stoppages in recent weeks in India’s often raucous Parliament among lawmakers representing India’s 1.4 billion people.
Opposition MPs have been demanding a probe into potential links between Modi and the business empire of tycoon Gautam Adani, which has been hit by allegations of accounting fraud.
Debates have also descended into shouting matches over comments made by Gandhi in Britain in early March that Indian democracy is “under attack”.
Opposition lawmakers from different parties also staged protests in New Delhi on Monday, the latest in a series of recent demonstrations.
Trade Minister and a member of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Piyush Goyal on Monday accused the opposition of “cheap politics” and “trying to mislead people”. Gandhi “has no right to consider himself above the law of the country”, Goyal told reporters.
Despite facing criticism from human rights groups, Modi has largely been courted by Western governments which see India, this year’s host of the Group of 20 economies, as a bulwark against China and potential player on the situation in Ukraine.
“Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Gandhi’s case in Indian courts,” United States (US) State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said, steering clear of condemning the opposition leader’s expulsion.