House truths

BJP must consider costs of disdaining Parliament. And UPA of bypassing it through ordinance

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 10, 2013 12:49:59 am

BJP must consider costs of disdaining Parliament. And UPA of bypassing it through ordinance

Two days ahead of schedule,the budget session of Parliament was adjourned sine die,to no great surprise. The trend of daily stalling by the opposition parties left no space for confidence that there would be any turnaround in the last 48-hour stretch to make up the backlog. For this,the blame must primarily be laid at the BJP’s doorstep. No party in this Lok Sabha has provided evidence of a responsibility to privilege Parliament’s rhythms and procedures above its narrow political agenda. There is depressingly little reason to believe that Vice President Hamid Ansari’s timely plea for introspection by all stakeholders will be heeded. But the BJP’s record is unmatched in cynicism and audacity. While in the last few days it sought the resignations of the law and railway ministers as a precondition to letting the Houses function,from the very beginning it has been intent on finding a demand a day on which to stall proceedings. It stands exposed for abdicating its responsibility as the main opposition party to use the floor of the House to engage on the legislative agenda and to question and extract information from the government.

What galvanises the BJP to forsake the parliamentary tools available to an opposition party to deepen its vigilance on executive action? Is it complacent in its relatively large strength in a fragmented House,in contrast to the olden days of the Congress’s single-party majorities when opposition parties felt compelled to use parliamentary debate and inquiry to amplify their power to interrogate? Does it think it is not worth the bother of crafting parliamentary strategy,when the less strenuous option exists of sitting it out presumptively as a party in waiting,in the expectation that forcing legislative paralysis will push the government into a defeating corner? That may or may not happen. However,the fact is,a political party’s actions feed into a legacy that goes on to define its internal dynamic. The BJP is internalising a standard it may find difficult to shed at a more sanguine moment.

This is also why the Congress should desist from the temptation to give effect to its legislative plans through ordinance. Bills,like those pertaining to food security and land acquisition,that it is keen to have passed,will have far-reaching consequences and should have the stamp of parliamentary approval. After all,its record in transacting the give-and-take needed in breaking the deadlock in Parliament is not exactly sparkling. Bypassing the floor of the House now to effect laws will further undermine the legislature.

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