Friday, August 24, 2012

Parliament logjam

Remember an old ad which ended with "and the argument continues"? The media and political discourse on Parliament disruptions is turning out to be the same though just one-sided. I don't see any commentator pondering for a moment on many issues behind the current Parliament logjam.

Rather than just lamenting that BJP is disrupting the Parliament, it would help to see what generally helps in keeping Parliament peaceful and working?

A good Ruling Party - Opposition Party relationship
Between 1991-1996, India possibly was in its most crucial phase which politically was also the most stressful one. Yet, Narsimha Rao government could navigate through landmines of economic liberalisation with great ease inspite of a minority government. What helped him was his ability to reach out to main opposition BJP and build a consensus on crucial issues. Narsimha Rao gave necessary respect to the opposition and ensured he does not act with arrogance or disdain towards them. Now come to 2004-2012. And what you see is complete lack of respect for the opposition. PM Manmohan Singh has only shown intellectual disdain and power drunk arrogance towards the opposition. To top it, he also indulged in unholy act of buying MPs from the opposition (PVNR too did it but from smaller fringe players, not main opposition). So why should opposition bail out Manmohan Singh when his government is under pressure?

For any ruling combine to push important bills, it is necessary for them to build a broader consensus with all parties. This means openness from the government to accept other viewpoints. How many times has UPA done this? It has ignored BJP throughout its tenure. For other parties, it has used or rather misused CBI to get their support. When everything fails, they step on federal spirit to browbeat or bribe smaller parties into supporting them. Is this a healthy democratic manner to run a government?

Yes, debates are one of the pillars of the Parliament. But they become just decorative pillars (and not protecting pillars) if the government does not act on the debates specially points put forth by the opposition. Take Lokpal for example. It saw some of the most brilliant debates seen in recent times. But what was the result? Government used it allies in LS to water it down and misused the office of RS Speaker to prevent a vote.

If one does an honest review of UPA government on above points, one can see their absolute failure in respecting the sanctity of the Parliament. Does then such a government deserve any sympathy when it finds itself in a corner.

Parliament has some of its institutions like PAC and JPC (whenever constituted). Congress has been consistently abusive and dismissive of the PAC led by Murali Manohar Joshi. He has been hauled over coals for asking the government tough questions as PAC chief. As for JPC on 2G, the less said the better. Congressmen in the JPC feel it okay to call an old and ill Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a probe but won't call P Chidambaram or Manmohan Singh for the same. They have reduced JPC to a joke this time.

Against this entire backdrop, one will find that disruption of the Parliament is the only option right now. All other options like debates, JPC, PAC have failed to get senses into a corrupt, power drunk, arrogant Congress. They care a damn for democratic values and to fight them just on those values did not help us in last 8 yrs and won't help in future too.

People forget that for a large part between 2004-2010 (except during Cash4Vote), Parliament functioned smooth. But what was the result? How many crucial bills were passed? Did the government bring in any major bills or initiatives then? Except 2, I can't think of any. So to say that reforms and governance can happen only if Parliament functions smoothly is a major blame shifting activity.

Coming to the current session, some of the key bills 'planned' are Women's Reservation, Lokpal, Pensions reforms, Insurance reforms, Banking reforms, Whistle Blowers Act. Now while everyone knows the long journey of first 2 bills and government's lack of will to pass it, Pensions and Insurance reforms are pending since more than 4 years due to opposition from UPA allies. Whistle Blower Act too is a watered down version of what was shown last year. So the valid question is why just blame current disruption when most of the pending business has been pending since years because of the UPA government. To just blame BJP for it is sheer lack of understanding democracy.

How serious is Congress about Parliament can be seen from the attendance sheet of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Their silence in the Parliament speaks a great deal about their disdain towards the institution. Add to that the fact that PM is always on a foreign trip during a session. I can't recall a single PM who was so casual about Parliament and its business.

You generally have to use a thorn to remove a thorn. The UPA is much more than a thorn in nation's soul. So to remove that, current tactics used by the BJP are valid last options.


  1. What great things achieved when LS did work smoothly?

  2. Shukla's whisper. Pappu's attendance. The queen not spoken in any parliament debate since 2006.And CON has some gumption in saying Opposition will ruin parliamentary traditions?? Someone show them the mirror.

    And then you have the likes of SP and Laloo spkng for restoration of normalcy in the Houses. What a sham this parliament is becoming. Worthy of respect someone said. Think again.