Updated: July 21, 2015 12:00:03 am
The monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be a stormy affair in the backdrop of “Lalitgate” and the Vyapam deaths. BJP and Congress leaders have each indicated that they don’t intend to let the other dictate the terms for conducting business in the House. That’s understandable, but both parties must ensure that the session is not a wash-out. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the all-party meeting on Monday, the House must find time to debate the serious issues at stake. The government has readied a packed agenda for the session — 11 bills are set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha while another nine await the Rajya Sabha’s assent. These need to be debated threadbare, and that’s as much the responsibility of the Opposition as it is of the government.
The Congress, however, seems to have other ideas. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad hinted that the government would need to accept the Congress’s demand for the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for his party’s cooperation in the House. No doubt these leaders have a lot to answer. This newspaper, in fact, had called for Swaraj to step down till she clears her name in “Lalitgate”. But the government seems to be committed to brazening it out with plain denial. Certainly, the Congress must take up the issue in the House and get the government to clear the air. But it must not turn the demand into a non-negotiable condition for the functioning of Parliament. Parliament is a place for dialogue, debate and, of course, expression of political disagreement. The Congress should use the floor of the House to expose the government’s intransigence on the scandals. Stalling Parliament makes for spectacle — as the BJP frequently did in the last Lok Sabha — but it betrays the party’s lack of faith in institutions and the parliamentary process itself.
The BJP, on its part, must learn to walk the thin line between political bombast and parliamentary compulsions. It must reach out to the Opposition and negotiate the space to conduct legislative business. A first step could be for PM Modi to make a statement in the Lok Sabha on the Lalit Modi case. The prolonged silence of an otherwise smart and combative communicator has not helped the government. It has been read as uncaring behaviour, making it tough for the BJP’s floor managers to build bridges with the Opposition.
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