Thursday, August 6, 2015

Can We End This Mexican Stand-Off in Parliament Please?

Last Man Standing - Sonia Gandhi Protesting Outside Parliament During this Monsoon Session
In Parliamentary democracy, it is not that we do not see stand-offs. Taiwan and South Korea's National Assemblies are notoriously famous for the brawls that the elected representatives regularly indulge in. Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria are quite famous for their punch-ups, and Jordan has the unique reputation of a member of parliament firing an AK-47 in the building. Kicks, slaps, moshes (oh yes, they look no different), blockades - you name it, they do it. Despite this confrontational approach of the opposition benches, irrespective of who occupies them, business eventually does get done. Vibrancy of the democratic set up gets displayed in a rather perverse manner however; brazenness is considered to be an undesirable trait by everyone, and efforts are never stopped to reconcile the various parties. The effort never stops - not only because there is no intransigence on the part of the ruling party, but the Opposition too accepts the futility beyond headline grabbing of holding national business up for too long.

For all those who have been shouting themselves hoarse on how the current stand-off in Parliament is the fault of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - you are wrong. The roots of this problem do not lie in 2004. Rather, they lie in 1999, when Sonia Gandhi officially became the Leader of Opposition from the Indian National Congress party, which had a strength of 97 MPs at that time. Does anyone even remember the boycott of George Fernandez - first of its kind in the history of Indian Parliament - that was initiated by Mrs Gandhi and her coterie - on the charges of corruption related to misconducts and commissions for coffins purchased for the Kargil martyrs? That is the real root of the whole stand-off that we see today. Ironically, what one perceives to have worked to good use for the Opposition at one time seems to become the panacea for all ills for the next occupant party as well. Ever since 2004, we have seen quite a ruckus created by the BJP benches too. But to rule out the ruling party's contribution during this period is just not possible. L Rajagopal, the pepper sprayer in Parliament, is one prime example of disruption from the ruling benches. Another was the ruckus created when L K Advani during a debate called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government illegitimate. Neither is suspension something unprecedented - Meira Kumar had suspended 10 Members of Parliament from the Opposition benches in 2010 at the behest of Mrs Gandhi, who seemed to remote control every possible position of authority without taking responsibility. Any attempt to have debates on issues of importance were shouted down and rejected straightaway instead of trying to find a middle path. Even now, despite six all-party meetings by the Speaker the Opposition led by Mrs Gandhi refuses to come to the discussion table. In her false belief that the resignations on the floor of the house of Mr Ashwani Kumar and Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal were victories for the BJP in 2014, she is indulging in the same suicidal game, earning only scorn and disgust of the public in turn for wasting public money. Repeated public surveys online, an indicator of the public mood, has shown that people believe the suspension done by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is appropriate.

This Mexican stand-off is entirely the fault of the Congress, and the sooner it realizes that it stands o slippery slope on this one, the less political capital it loses. Important bills such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which it is stalling even in the Parliamentary panel of Rajya Sabha, shows its lack of intent to let the government function at all. Pretentious cries of "return of Emergency" and 'black day for democracy" sounds hollow when the disruption is entirely your fault Mrs Gandhi.

So Mrs Gandhi, now can we please end this Mexican stand-off in Parliament, since there is only one loser irrespective, and that is you and your son?


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