Over the last week, leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has repeatedly criticised the Congress for disrupting Parliament and accused it of running away from a debate on the Lalit Modi controversy as it insists that Union minister Sushma Swaraj resign first.
During the previous regime, it was Jaitley and, ironically, Sushma who had led the then Opposition’s offensive over various issues, leading to a series of disruptions that both had justified then.
When the oil-for-food scandal broke during UPA-I, Jaswant Singh headed the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha but Jaitley and Sushma were the BJP faces who led the offensive, resulting in disruption of Parliament in winter 2005 and external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s eventual resignation.
The multiple ministerial resignations during UPA-II — from A Raja to Dayanidhi Maran and Shashi Tharoor to P K Bansal and Ashwani Kumar — followed vociferous demands led again by Jaitley and Sushma, leaders of the opposition in the two Houses.
The Congress is now recalling the statements Jaitley and Sushma had made, arguing that the BJP had set the precedent for disruption.
They point out that the entire winter session of 2010 was washed out when the BJP set the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee as a precondition for allowing Parliament to function.
Productivity of the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) has been the worst in the last 50 years, the Lok Sabha working 61 per cent of its scheduled time and the Rajya Sabha 66 per cent, according to PRS Legislative Research. The BJP disrupted Parliament over the 2G scam in 2010, the CVC’s appointment in 2011 and coal block allocation in 2012.
Sushma Swaraj, Then…
November 4, 2005 (outside Parliament): “It was only due to the pressure mounted by the Opposition that the government yesterday talked about probing the issue… But no probe can be impartial without Natwar Singh quitting office.”
September 7, 2012 (at end of monsoon session, disrupted over coal allocations): “Not allowing Parliament to function is a form of democracy like any other form… They asked us to hold a debate either under an adjournment motion, rule 184, or rule 93. Under adjournment motion, debate is taken up after adjourning question hour, followed by voting by voice vote… Debate under 193 would mean a ‘talkout’ by the government and walkout by Opposition. If we had taken debate under 184, they would have won because they have numbers. Numbers do not give a licence to loot the country.”
Arub Jaitley, Then…
January 30, 2011 (quoted by ANI as having said in Ranchi): “Parliament’s job is to conduct discussions. But many a time, Parliament is used to ignore issues and in such situations, obstruction of Parliament is in the favour of democracy. Therefore parliamentary obstruction is not undemocratic.”
August 22, 2012 (interview to Times Now): “We are not interested in a debate. What is there to debate?We have had bad experiences on these discussions in the past with the 2G scam.”
August 26, 2012 (outside Parliament): “There are occasions when obstruction in Parliament brings greater benefits to the country… Our strategy does not permit us to allow the government to use Parliament (for debate) without being held accountable… we do not want to give government an escape route through debate.”
August 28, 2012 (article in The Hindu): “Parliamentary obstructionism should be avoided. It is a weapon to be used in the rarest of the rare cases. Parliamentary accountability is as important as parliamentary debate. Both must coexist. If parliamentary accountability is subverted and a debate is intended to be used merely to put a lid on parliamentary accountability, it is then a legitimate tactic for the Opposition to expose the government through parliamentary instruments available at its command.”
August 26, 2012 (article issued by BJP): “Suggestions that the issue should be debated only in Parliament will put a lid on one of the greatest scandals in Indian history (coal blocks allocation). We, in the Opposition, are not interested in merely the issue being talked out through a one-day debate in Parliament… Parliamentary obstructionism should ordinarily be avoided. However, in the rarest of rare cases, obstructionism also brings its dividends.”
September 7, 2012 (after disrupted session): “One session of Parliament has earlier been lost on account of corruption in allotment of 2G spectrum. That helped this country cleanse the telecom sector. Hopefully, the long-term gains of this session may enable future governments to clean up the process of allocation of natural resources.”
Arun Jaitley, Now…
July 21, 2015 (Rajya Sabha): “We are ready for discussion… Why are you (Opposition) running away from a discussion?… If they want the external affairs minister to make a statement, we are ready for that… you are scared of a discussion.”
July 21 (outside the House): “We get a distinct and clear impression that the Opposition wants disturbance for some time… Obviously state issues can’t be discussed… But as far as other issues are concerned, we offered that we are ready for discussions and we are ready right now for a discussion.”
July 22 (Rajya Sabha): “If the Opposition wants the rules to be changed and state issues are to be discussed, we will discuss issues of various states and we are ready for that. We will discuss so that we set a new precedent that all state issues ranging from what has been happening in Kerala, in Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Goa, and all such state issues can be discussed… If they want to discuss the issue relating to Sushma Swaraj, please start the discussion right now…
“I dare you to start the discussion. You don’t have a single fact. Therefore, noise-making is all that you want to do, and you don’t want to discuss…”
July 22 (outside): “Opposition is weak on arguments but strong on disturbance. We want the entire nation to hear Sushma Swaraj’s views but the Opposition does not want the House to run.”