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The opposition’s disregard for Question Hour on Monday is deeply worrying.

Written by The Indian Express |
August 2, 2011 12:57:43 am

The monsoon session is seen to be a great opportunity for Parliament to get its equilibrium back,not because there are expectations that harmony will suddenly break out between the ruling coalition and the opposition. Even in the most tranquil of times,an element of political combat is essential for the legislature to keep a vigil on the executive and to ensure the contestation required to refine the legislation on the agenda. Therefore,there is nothing wrong,or out of place,for political parties to come to the two Houses with a political plan of action. Indeed,if the adjournment of proceedings in the Rajya Sabha on the opening day is an indication that confrontation may continue to be by obstruction and rebuff,it would be because of lazy politics — because of a failure to inventively,and purposefully,craft their politics into their parliamentary duties.

Consider the schedule of disruption in the Rajya Sabha (Lok Sabha was adjourned as a customary response to the death of a sitting MP). While MPs belonging to the BSP raised a stir demanding expeditious introduction of a land acquisition bill,others led by BJP members demanded the suspension of Question Hour so there could be a discussion,with voting,on the 2G issue. From parties that affirmed Parliament’s sovereignty in law-making in response to a spectacular attempt by a few “civil society” activists to arrogate to themselves the power to dictate legislation,this casual disregard for Question Hour is shocking. That hour between 11 am and noon begins Parliament’s day and is integral to the oversight the legislature,as an united entity,exercises over the executive. It allows the MPs present in the House the option to pose supplementary — that is,impromptu — questions to ministers. To unthinkingly surrender the opportunity to do so is to undermine whatever rhetoric that sustains the opposition’s demands for some tough questioning of the government.

Question Hour has,in fact,of late reflected some of the crises in Parliament. There have been instances when MPs,against whose names questions have been listed,not showing up,and a year ago rules were amended to allow each House to take up questions even if the MP is absent. During this year’s budget session,the Rajya Sabha altered its schedule,postponing Question Hour to the afternoon in order to barricade it against the opposition’s opening-hour temptation to raise a din on the issue of the day. Now that it is back to its 11 am slot,its record this monsoon session will be an indicator of Parliament’s.

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