Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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Democracy, a precious jewel in the crown of any government, came rather easily to us for historical reasons. And in utter ungratefulness, we have only contributed towards its subversion, one of them being a new, reprehensible process and terminology called ‘stalling Parliament’. This is the licence that the opposition has appropriated for itself of not allowing Parliament to function, on any illegitimate pretext that it chooses.
The great Indian tamasha seems to be fast becoming an institutionalised fixture of our dysfunctional version of democracy, manifesting itself day after day. MPs have come to believe that once they are elected, they acquire a fundamental right to derail democratic processes of decision making in Parliament, particularly against the greater good of the country, without any accountability to their voters for wasting crores of rupees of the tax payers’ money meant for running Parliament.
The stalling of the monsoon session of Parliament was quite expected. The most popular interpretation is that the Congress Party is taking its own sweet revenge for similar tactics employed by the BJP when it was in the opposition, particularly during UPA 2. But what it forgets is that BJP stalled Parliament during that regime because the answers it sought from the government regarding the mindboggling scams engineered by the UPA government, such as the 2 G scam, the Asian Games scam, the Coal scam, never came nor were they allowed to be debated in Parliament. The situation today is a little different. The ruling party wants to make a statement regarding allegations against its ministers, particularly, Ms Sushma Swaraj, but the Congress still wants to prevent Parliament from functioning. So clearly, the motive for stalling Parliament appears to go beyond discussion on topical issues.
There is also speculation that this ‘stalling’ Parliament is really neither a tit for tat by Congress Party nor an act of simple vendetta. Yes, it certainly does seem to be turning into an ugly corruption competition, but apparently the motives are actually far more sinister, namely that the Congress Party will not allow Parliament to function, as they would like to prevent the Government from undertaking any economic reforms that will bring dividends to the country in the next 2-3 years. For example, the GST Bill, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, popularly known as the Land Bill, must not be allowed to pass, lest they bring about economic growth and attendant trickle-down prosperity to the common people of India, and enhance the BJP’S prospects in the next election. If this is indeed so, and there appears to be no reason to believe otherwise, judging from the fact that every new headline for the day is being used as an excuse to disrupt Parliament, then this is one of the most anti-national acts that the Congress Party is indulging in, for which they will have to pay dearly.
Democracy was a great gift we received at Independence. It had remained buried in the Dark Ages after the glory of ancient Greece until it was resurrected again, gradually step by step, through Bills of Rights, punctuated in turns by bloody revolutions and constitutionalism, revolutions and regicide, spanning over almost six centuries in Europe and Britain. The generations who inherited democracy in the west had fought hard and shed their blood for it. To this day, they consider their hard earned political rights sacrosanct, and passionately respect and protect them.
In our case, democracy was acquired in a reverse process. We received it without a political or ideological struggle. True, it was embedded in the concept of Swaraj, during our struggle for independence, but the real fight against our colonial rulers was for Independence. Democracy to us came as a huge collateral benefit on a platter without shedding a drop of blood, for which others in foreign lands had fought for and sacrificed their lives . We gave to ourselves the most magnificent democratic Constitution that embodied the struggle and wisdom of centuries in foreign lands. But how many of our people in 1947 understood what it meant, and how many of us today understand its true meaning? Certainly not the political parties or MPs who believe that ‘stalling’ Parliament is a high expression of democracy.
The Congress Party while it led UPA 2 perfected the art of innnovative "floor management" with multiple strategies — inducements and rewards, political and budgetary quid pro quos, walkouts by amenable Opposition parties at the right time to defeat legislations like the Lokpal Bill, and the CBI stick of course. And now that it is in opposition it is banking upon a misguided strategy of ‘stalling’ the constitutional process of Parliament, a strategy that seems to be boomeranging on it.
All streams of the media should explain these facts to the people of India, and the harm that stalling of Parliament is causing to the progress of our country and our people, all because the Congress wants to prevent the BJP government at all costs from achieving a positive report card to take to the voters for the next election. The media and enlightened civil society organisations should mobilise voters to hold their representatives in Parliament accountable for thwarting democracy and wasting crores of the tax payers money for this anti-national activity.
Since both parties, the one before and the other after May 2014 have liberally made use of this atrocious parliamentary behaviour, it has become difficult for honorable non-party men and women to make an effort to outlaw this abominable practice. But even if the effort has slender chance of success we must try. Perhaps sanity will prevail.