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Systemic stress


Even as the Union Government is in free-fall, Parliament, too, is in a state of near paralysis. With contentious issues allowed to fester without cure, almost no legislative work is getting done. Things have come to a pass that the BJP has even suggested the Lokpal Bill be passed in the Rajya Sabha based on ‘consensus’ rather than debate simply because the ongoing protests by Andhra MPs has made conduct of proceedings almost impossible. The Lok Sabha only flickers on briefly every day to be adjourned for the next. All this while pending matters are acquiring greater urgency by the day, the most recent being the restoration by the SC of LGBT ‘criminality’.
The BJP alleges with considerable credibility that the government is deliberately allowing disruption of Parliament to avoid embarrassment or to delay legislation that would have adverse impact on its fortunes, in particular, the Lokpal Bill. UPA supporter SP, for instance, has declared its opposition to the Lokpal Bill even though it has been cleared unanimously on most points by the Standing Committee. At the same time, however, the BJP is also playing a double-game on issues like Telangana formation, failing to clear the way for a resolution of the problem either way. BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is rapidly developing a Manmohan Singh style policy of silence on ‘difficult’ issues like ‘snoopgate’ and ‘section 377’.
Even as pandemonium reigns supreme in the Lok and Rajya Sabhas, the government would have the people believe it will get important legislation through. Even if it does, it cannot be healthy for democracy, because the people have a right to know the various aspects of a law, and why it is being brought. They want debates on issues that are important to them, such as inflation, the state of the economy, security, employment, corruption, etc., instead of the pet legislations of influential politicians or powerful lobbies, such as the Food Security Act and various others named after the Congress first family. As healthy functioning has not occurred in particular over the past couple of years, there is increasing disillusionment among the masses, which is bound to reflect in voting behaviour, springing even more AAP like surprises in the future.
Perhaps, it is time for Parliament to legislate on its own functioning. The rules of procedure need to be modified to ensure that, no matter what, disruptive behaviour by members does not waste Parliament’s time. In fact, even at the present, there is enough in the rules book that empowers the presiding officers of the two houses to crack the whip. It is a mystery that, in spite of the grievous provocations and the immense harm caused to the institution’s functioning, they have failed to act. Perhaps, the change in the rules should compel them to do so. No matter what, Parliament ought to put in at least the number of hours of work that it has been summoned for.
It is truly amazing how little concern there is among the elected representatives for the state of the nation. As they squabble over minor issues and ego hassles, the major problems continue to grow without being addressed. For how long can the system endure without beginning to crack in multiple ways? Can India afford to wait?