20,000 Indians urge MPs to end parliament deadlock

Activists from the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) during a street play as part of a protest near the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on Aug 11, 2015.
Activists from the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) during a street play as part of a protest near the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on Aug 11, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - More than 20,000 Indians including prominent business leaders have signed an online petition urging lawmakers to end weeks of rowdy protests that have paralysed parliament in the world's largest democracy.

The petition on the Change.org site said public trust in the parliamentary system could be damaged by the protests, which have made it impossible for the government to push through key legislative reforms.

"Perpetual disruption can never be the rule," said the petition, which has garnered 21,164 signatures since it was launched five days ago by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

"The importance of uninterrupted legislative function of the parliament can hardly be overemphasised."

It said lawmakers had been prevented from debating a long-pending bill to create a national goods and services tax to replace a myriad of overlapping state duties that deter investment in the country.

India's parliament is notoriously rowdy, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party employed similar tactics to disrupt the former government before coming to power last year.

But the current session has been particularly raucous, and last week the speaker suspended 25 opposition lawmakers.

Much of the opposition's ire has centred on Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is under pressure over her role in helping Lalit Modi get a passport in London.

The exiled former cricket boss faces allegations of money laundering in India linked to a lucrative television deal.

With just one more day to go until the next parliamentary recess, debate was once again halted on Wednesday as opposition members loudly heckled Swaraj.

While the BJP enjoys a clear majority in parliament's lower house, or Lok Sabha, his party is in a minority in the upper house, where it needs opposition support to push through legislation.