Parliament’s last session

Author: 
Kalyani Shankar

No one should be surprised at the newspaper and primetime TV headlines that the current session of Parliament is heading towards a washout. This is the 12th straight session wasted so far. In fact we see almost the same headlines at the close of every Parliament session in the past two decades with the result people are getting disenchanted with the M.Ps 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 Congress-led Opposition now, as when the 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." So it is a blame game.
While the political parties used to keep up pretension that they were willing to work earlier 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 Modi government is facing a no-confidence motion brought separately by the Congress, TDP and TRS. The AIADMK is threatening to bring another.
Both the presiding officers had been pleading with the members to allow the house to function but of 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.” He 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 the 60 retiring members last week. 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 has cleared the Finance Bill 2018 without any discussion as also 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 as 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 Telugu Desam supported by the other opposition parties stalled the business.  Every day as soon as the house began its proceedings the 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. The Telugu Desam, an ally of the 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 the parties have separately given a no-confidence motion against the Modi government.
Politically, it is not unexpected in view of the upcoming Assembly elections 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 gallery to 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 the business is transacted in both the houses and reach out to the opposition. But the Opposition also has its 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 step motherly 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 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. (IPA)

Sunday, 15 April, 2018