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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2042

Can Another Session Loss Be Prevented?

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

The winter session of Parliament was written off as a bad loss with the BJP-led government and large sections of the media putting the blame almost entirely on the Opposition, especially the Congress, for yet another washout session. That may be questioned because the treasury benches have the larger onus of ensuring smooth functioning of Parliament. But the more important point at the moment is will Parliament be subjected to another flop show when it begins its marathon budget session late in February next year? It will be hard to bet on a largely trouble-free session next time around.

For repeatedly derailing Parliament proceedings during the winter session, the Congress has been criticized of trying to pay the Bharatiya Janata Party back in the same coin. But it cannot be forgotten that the present ruling party had taken great pleasure—and political mileage--by disrupting parliamentary proceedings session after session for much of the last tenure of the Congress-led UPA government (2009-2014).

It cannot be disputed that obstructing proceedings in Parliament brings a bad name to the country which prides itself in being known as the largest democracy in the world. The public by and large does not seem to see it as a big issue at the hustings. Could it be that the Congress and other Opposition parties have kept that in mind when expressing their criticism on the floor of Parliament by taking recourse to unruly behaviour?

Many see a change in public perception with disapproval of continuously derailing of parliamentary proceedings, thanks to the loud rebuke coming from both the government and the media. A more definite answer to that perceived change may have to wait till some of the states go to the polls over the next one year.
In retrospect, what will appear to have ‘encouraged’ the then principal Opposition party to disallow smooth work in Parliament was that its tactic did not attract much criticism from other Opposition parties or the media, both of which were obsessed with the exposure of ‘scams’ associated with the Congress and its allies. Also apparent was an impatience to throw out a ‘paralyzed’ and ‘weak-kneed’ government and bring in a He Man sort of figure to run the country.

It is claimed that many of the ‘scams’ unearthed during the UPA regime would not have led to any meaningful action had the BJP not mounted attacks on the government inside Parliament, regularly obstructing proceedings. The entire top leadership of the BJP had discovered virtues in this tactic. Two of the present ministers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, had gone to the extent of describing their party’s tactics as good for democracy.

Now the BJP is crying hoarse against these very tactics, decrying the issues raised by the Congress and others as ‘baseless’ or ‘trivial’ and not proved in a court of law. This is where the trouble lies and forces a pessimistic view of the next session of Parliament being really ‘productive’.

The BJP, painting itself as a party of snow-white men and women, had never hesitated from raking up controversial issues and demand prompt action. If there were any counter allegations against a BJP leader or its government in a state they were dismissed out of hand and any further attempt to pursue them would call for more trouble inside Parliament.

It will be stretching credulity to say that ‘scams’ are confined to the Congress and other non-BJP parties and that all BJP members and leaders are saints. Of course, the BJP lives in a make-believe world of its own by insisting that anyone who joins the Hindutva party becomes a saint. There have been many instances of Congress leaders targeted by the BJP for their alleged involvement in corruption cases being heartily embraced by the BJP and immediately assigned coveted positions.

The manner in which the BJP has treated allegations against some of its top leaders, including two union ministers and two chief ministers, would suggest that the BJP practices double standards in tackling corruption. It will try its best to silence criticism against its own leaders but would not rest when rivals face charges of misdemeanour. Certain government institutions remain in ‘cage’ and allegedly misused to emasculate the Opposition or teach it a lesson.
The ruling party cannot shy away from its duty to do its best to see that Parliament functions normally. It cannot expect to do so if it adopts a confrontationist approach towards the Opposition. The Narendra Modi government has proved to be incapable of building a working relationship with the Opposition.

In the short period that the government has been in power the distance between the ruling party and the Opposition has increased. The prime minister loses his much acclaimed oratorical skills mysteriously on occasions, especially when issues on which he should be heard loud and clear agitate the country. Many of his ministerial and party colleagues have alienated large sections of the people by frequently speaking out of turn.

Likewise, some of the Governors appointed by the present government have done their bit by acting like a party member, not an independent and largely ceremonial head of a state. The prime minister has shown an unwarranted indulgence towards them.

There is yet another reason why optimism about a ‘normal’ budget session is difficult to generate. The prime minister and his party no longer seem to enjoy the kind of overwhelming popularity they did when the last Lok Sabha elections were held. Recent assembly polls showed that the tide was turning away from Modi.

The Opposition is said to be daydreaming about repeating Bihar with the help of a Grand Alliance against Modi in the next round of state assembly elections in ‘crucial’ states like West Bengal, UP, Assam and Kerala. An idea has sunk in the minds of the Opposition parties that Modi and his party have become vulnerable. Jokes about Modi being a friend of the rich and an ‘NRI prime minister’ abound.

What happens inside Parliament would not be a major factor in deciding the outcome of the next round of assembly polls through 2016 and 2017 but an arrogant face of the BJP will further encourage the Opposition to take charge of Parliamentary proceedings in the coming session.

- Asian Tribune -

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