Looming crisis in Parliament
Both the Opposition and the Government must be held responsible for wrecking parliamentary proceedings, the consequences of which are grave — a disenchanted public may lose confidence in public representatives
No one should be surprised at the headlines in newspapers and prime-time televsion channels that the current Winter Session of Parliament is heading towards a washout. This is the 12th straight session wasted so far. In fact, we have been seeing almost the same headlines at the close of every Parliament session in the past two decades. People are becoming disenchanted with the MPs for not doing their duties.
What are the functions and duties of an elected Member of Parliament? There are four important functions: Budget scrutiny, protecting the interests of the constituents, function as a watchdog over the Government and above all, making laws.
Are they performing their duties for which they have been elected? This belligerence is not pertaining to the Congress-led Opposition now as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too was doing the same thing when it was in the Opposition.
While the Government blames the Opposition, the latter blames the BJP for not reaching out to them. Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a rally in Karnataka on March 25 said, “In Parliament, a no-confidence motion against the Modi Government has been moved. For the past 10 days it has been stalled because the Government is afraid”.
Hence, the blame-game continues. While political parties used to keep up pretensions that they were willing to work, it was clear from day one that neither the Government nor the Opposition had any intention of allowing the Parliament to function during this session.
Significantly, this is the first time the Narendra Modi Government is facing a no-confidence motion brought separately by the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is threatening to bring another.
Both the presiding officers had been pleading with the members to allow the House to function but to no avail. The Chairman of Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu lamented, “ I am filled with sadness at the disorder, indiscipline and inappropriate conduct in the House”.
Naidu made several appeals to the members, asking them not to further erode the “quality of polity”. He finally succeeded in making the Rajya Sabha bid farewell to 60 retiring members last week. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had no such success.
The Upper House was only able to pass the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill 2017, while the Lok Sabha cleared the Finance Bill 2018 without any discussion, including a Rs 89 crore spending plan for the next fiscal year in less than half an hour.
The House passed the 21 amendments for taxation proposals in the Bill by a voice vote and also the appropriation Bill containing the budgetary plans for 99 Government departments and Ministries.The Opposition blocked the Government in both Houses on various issues. Mainly, the four regional parties from the south — AIADMK, TRS, YSR Congress and TDS — supported by the other opposition parties stalled the business.
Every day as soon as the House began its proceedings, 37 AIADMK members trooped into the well of the House, demanding setting up of the Cauvery Water Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court. The TRS wanted its 12 per cent reservation for Muslims in the State to be notified under Ninth Schedule.
TDS, an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), after quitting the alliance last month, became more belligerent, demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh as promised at the time of the bifurcation of the State in 2014. Not to be outdone, the YSR Congress too is demanding the same and both parties have separately given a no-confidence motion against the Modi Government.
Politically, it is not unexpected in view of the upcoming Assembly election to Karnataka where both the Congress and the BJP are engaged in direct fight.
As for the AIADMK, it is competitive local politics which is playing out in Parliament. Same is the case with TDP and YSRC. The TRS is indeed playing to the tune of its home constituency. Losing one more Session does not auger well for the Government as well as the Opposition. There are many issues which are important, like the agrarian crisis, the Nirav Modi-PNB scam, Iraq issue, Cambridge Analytica data sale, Ramnavami clashes in West Bengal and Bihar and so on.
Certainly, it is for the Government to ensure that business is transacted in both Houses and it must reach out to the Opposition. But the Opposition too has a responsibilities to debate, discuss and expose the Government.
Right now, the relationship between the Government and the Opposition has completely broken down. The Government should also note the growing north-south divide, with the southern States complaining of a stepmotherly treatment.
If this continues, the people of the country may no longer have trust in politicians, who they believe, are taking them for a ride. They are already disenchanted with the political class with the increasing number of NOTA votes in the ballot paper indicating their anger. Parliament is a temple of democracy and if this breaks down, the democracy will also be shattered.
(The writer is (The writer is a senior political commentator and syndicated columnist)
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