The Monsoon Session of Parliament has begun in the backdrop of the second wave of Covid-19 receding in many parts of the country, leaving behind heightened suffering and economic distress. It is necessary and important for the House to convene amid crisis. It can help the government both in the task of revival and repair, and in the strengthening of its response to the public health emergency that still lies ahead. In a country as vast and diverse as this one, the pandemic has played out as a shared calamity, but also taken on regional variations. Even as other issues jostle for attention, the stage is set for the people’s representatives from across the country to share their Covid experiences, and scrutinise the government’s Covid response. The Opposition has rightly demanded that the prime minister should play his part in these deliberations on the floor of Parliament, instead of briefing MPs separately while the House is in session.
While the government must heed the call for engagement and accountability, the Opposition, too, must recognise the importance of this parliamentary moment and the need to ensure that its possibilities are not frittered away, or lost. Parliament is meeting after a long period of silence and a political lull imposed by the pandemic. Meanwhile, the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s farm laws has completed a year and still carries on. Rising unemployment, fuel prices and food inflation are taking a mounting toll. And on session eve, there are serious allegations of state surveillance of ministers, Opposition politicians and journalists among others. It is the responsibility of the Opposition to ensure that each of these issues is discussed in Parliament and the government is held to account. It must resist the temptation to succumb to the blunt and tired strategies of the past — to boycott proceedings when the government uses its majority to impose its will, or have its way. In fact, walking out of the House would be walking into a trap laid by a ruling dispensation that does not want to be asked difficult questions or have to come up with answers.
These are times when the spaces for the Opposition, and for opposing views, are shrinking. A time like this calls for parties that do not have the numbers in Parliament to use the political skill and imagination at their command to amplify their concerns. In this Monsoon Session, bristling with issues, with an unprecedented health crisis as backdrop, the Opposition must find a voice and the government must talk and listen. Much depends on it.