The Winter Session in Parliament was nothing short of a debacle. Productivity spiraled to an astonishing low. Data with Indian think tank PRS Legislative shows that as off December 14, 2016, the Lok Sabha had made 14 percent progress during the Winter Session, while the progress made by the Rajya Sabha was 20 percent. PRS also noted that in the past 21 sittings, while the Lok Sabha had dedicated 4.3 hours on non-legislative issues, the Rajya Sabha had spent 11.8 hours. The Rajya Sabha committed zero hours on questions, while the Lok Sabha spent 5.1 hours.
The deadlock created by the Opposition and the ruling government has resulted in considerable losses. Whenever a Parliamentary session is disrupted, it is estimated to cost Rs 2 crore per day.
The questions to ask are these:
Has the Opposition’s strategy of disrupting the parliament served any purpose? No.
Has the government’s prohibition of Rahul Gandhi from speaking in Parliament brought a positive outcome? Though it has raised many brows and provided ample media fodder – No.
Therefore, has the tax payer’s money, particularly during the paralysing period of demonetisation, been put to good use? No.
Should we hold our elected representatives responsible and accountable for the time and money that has been lost? Yes.
Unfortunately, the specter of tumultuous political scuffle has loomed over Parliament for decades. As Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says, the golden rule, ‘thou should do onto others as you would have them do unto you” has in politics become “Do onto others what they have done unto you”. Since the BJP has done this to the UPA constituency for ten years, now the UPA constituency will do the same.
Neither the Congress nor the BJP should receive a pat on their back for this unhealthy, rabid display of politics. It’s this juvenile, tit-for-tat, unrepentant opportunism entrenched in Indian politics that makes me question the maturity of the Parliament members who we have sent to represent us and safeguard our interests. Orchestrating a tumultuous session sits at the core of a party’s political agenda – it has been exhibited by all parties whenever they’ve found themselves sitting in the Opposition’s seat. It’s like a vicious circle, really. Back in 2012, the ruling Congress had criticised its political rival for disrupting the sessions. It led BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Venkaiah Naidu to point fingers at the UPA saying, “When Congress disrupts, it is in nation’s interest and when we do is it a crime?”
One could argue that rules should be lodged in place to root out those who create menace. Unfortunately, however, doing that would be considered “undemocratic”. In fact, in our scheme of things, not allowing Parliament to function is also a form of democracy. But right to dissent cannot be considered a right to disrupt. To have proceedings which are democratic is an admired goal. One would expect that parliamentary debates headed by some of the country’s veteran party leaders should be exemplary in nature. Disagreements are bound to surface and ruffle feathers, but one would expect them to be smoothed out through constructive, deeply deliberated dialogues that maintain political diplomacy and decency.
That, however, is a far cry from where we stand today. Political rivalry between the ruling government and the Opposition has ensured a standstill in Parliament – a reflection of where our country is headed (if it hasn’t already) and it’s doing a staggering harm to the citizens. The politicians, of course, are unrepentant. Political expertise or the ability to hold constructive debates, are no longer the per-requisites to become members of Parliament. They’ve been replaced with the ability to be fiercely uncompromising, loud and bullish.