Mullah Naseeruddin is known for his wit and sense of humour all over Asia. I read this story long time back -
Mullah Naseeruddin was informed one day that his mother-in-law had drowned. He rushed to the river and asked to be shown the spot where she had drowned. He started walking upstream. Surprised, his friends said wouldn’t it be better if they went downstream? He replied, “You probably don’t know the lady, she acted obsessively differently from normal people. I am certain we will find her body somewhere upstream.”
All of us who have faith in the parliamentary system of democracy agreed with Somnath Chatterjee when he said- “You are all working overtime to finish democracy in this country. It is a matter of great sorrow.” The Lok Sabha witnessed unruly scenes forcing the Speaker of the house to adjourn proceedings. Opposition MPs had gathered near his podium shouting slogans.The Rajya sabha was also adjourned till noon after similar scenes were witnessed inside the House.
The Budget Session of Parliament commenced today. It would be too optimistic to hope that the parliament will get the opportunity of a sensible and in-depth discussion on the budget.There are chances of a repetition of disorder and chaos which happens most often in our parliament these days. For the last few years decisions are made without discussions in the Parliament. It is difficult to believe that once upon a time discussions on the budget, demands of the ministries, Question Time, were important. Who is responsible for this situation? The party in power blames the opposition and when the opposition comes to power, it blames its opposition for doing what it had itself done while in opposition. The fact of the matter is that both sides of the House to are to be blamed equally.
It’s not that we don’t have capable MPs. There are some brilliant parliamentarians in our parliament. The problem is that their talent is not being utilised because of the lack of opportunities for discussions in the House.The quality of debates depends on the manner in which the business of the House is transacted. The moment some important issue is discussed petty politics takes priorty over national concerns. The seriousness of the issues is gone.
During the Nehruvian era there were certain conventions of parliamentary debates which were followed by all. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were not interrupted when they spoke and there was no display of disrespect. Ministers were expected to remain neutral and were not supposed to join the protests and demonstrations by the members of the ruling party. Nobody cares now and that has led to the falling standards of decorum.
Under the Rules the presiding officer has the power to punish the members who disobey his orders or obstruct the business of the House. These days the presiding officer often chooses to be lenient to the members who indulge in objectionable conduct because he doesn’t want to become unpopular with the members. The reason could be that when governments are run by coalitions, no presiding officer can be certain that the House will back a motion of punishment if the member or a group of members happen to be a partner of the coalition or belong to parties supporting the government from outside (the Rules of the House require that a motion of suspension has to be presented to the House immediately after a member or group of members is named by the Chair). Order and decorum can be enforced by the presiding officer only if the members back him.
One more issue is the allocation of time for members participating in the debates. The bulk of the time for debate on any issue is allotted to the party in power, the main Opposition party and other recognised political parties. Parliamentary democracy works on the basis of political parties and it is understandable to allot the main part of the time for debates to political parties in the House. However is it justified to give a Raghuvansh prasad Singh more time than a legal expert like Fali Nariman even when the issues discussed are those relating to law or the Constitution? If experts don’t get enough time it is the House that is deprived of the benefit of their expertise. Rajya Sabha boasts of MPs who are experts in their respective fields but due to their not being affiliated to a political party the time assigned to them is not enough. Who cares? Our political parties are too busy protesting when they are in opposition and pushing their own agenda forward while in power.
Is the Congress ready to wait till ’09 for the general elections?
President Pratibha Patil’s address to the parliament indicates the contrary. She instigated the Left by mentioning the nuclear deal. Reports suggest a poor kharif crop is a possibility which may lead to price rise. Inflation is already high and Congress will not be able to face the ‘aam aadmi’ in the elections in case of increase in the food prices. The other reason for early elections could be that BJP governments will have to deal with anti-incumbency threats in 3 important states.In Rajasthan VasundraRaje is not a popular chief Minister anymore;too many controversies surrounding her. The Gujjars won’t be very happy with her after the reservation controversy.Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh BJP governments have their own set of problems to deal with. Uma Bharati could be a major worry in Madhya Pradesh LK Advani has been projected as the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA. He was an unacceptable hardliner not very long back. A united NDA cannot be a good news for the Congress, so early elections may benefit the Congress.
The budget is due in the next few days, and a political message is necessary in everything that is done in the coming months.We can expect a populist budget this year. However success for the Congress and the BJP will come only if positive signals are given to the masses by providing good leadership instead of politically convenient Chief ministers in the states. I hope and wish issues of religion and caste will take a back seat in terms of electoral success this time.