Can’t-do spirit

A special session would only show up the UPA’s failure to ensure normal parliamentary functioning

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 14, 2013 12:43:48 am

A special session would only show up the UPA’s failure to ensure normal parliamentary functioning

Having failed to pass its cherished food security bill in a regular parliamentary session,the UPA has confirmed that it is considering a special session to enact the legislation. This is an extraordinary proposal,and conveys the UPA’s desperation more than anything else. There have been a few special sittings of Parliament,to mark important anniversaries,but it will be markedly odd to convene in this manner between sessions,to enact a legislation that can easily wait its turn till the monsoon session. The food bill is not a response to an unfolding emergency. It is a flawed and populist piece of legislation,one that the UPA thinks it can present to the electorate as the big achievement of its second term.

A special session of Parliament is not likely to give the bill the full consideration it needs. By all accounts,it will be called after behind-the-scenes consultation with opposition parties. Given the rhetoric around hunger and malnourishment,no political party will want to take serious issue with the bill or argue with its modalities,even though data suggests that the bill promises to solve what has already been largely resolved,that subsidising cereals is not what we need,but improving nutrition. It will introduce serious distortions in the agricultural market,and relies on a corrupt and dysfunctional PDS. And yet,it can be safely assumed that the outcome of this special session is predetermined. It will not be an occasion for genuine discussion. It will merely enact debate for form’s sake.

Calling a special session to pass the food security bill is also an admission of failure. It is a signal that nothing can be expected from a normal session of Parliament,that the government does not have the persuasive skills or the commitment to rally support for its causes on the floor of the House. The opposition has shown no sense of proportion,obstructing parliamentary functioning over issues both trivial and serious. The responsibility for ensuring that legislative business goes on,however,rests with the government,and its record has been dismal. That it should have to resort to unprecedented instruments like ordinances and special sessions to get work done,speaks volumes about the UPA’s capacity to lead.

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