Parliament’s undermining is unacceptable

opinionParliament’s undermining is unacceptable

There are lessons to learn from what transpired in Parliament during the confrontation between the treasury benches and the Opposition during the debate on the motion of thanks by the President. Both sides have to show greater accommodation, the ruling dispensation in particular, so that the deliberations do not get disrupted due to the conduct of members from either side.

It is the prime responsibility of the government to ensure that the House runs smoothly. However, the Opposition too cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of not allowing matters to be discussed and debated on the floor of the Lok Sabha and also that of the Rajya Sabha.

It is unfortunate that the institution of Parliament is being undermined and this is absolutely unacceptable and goes against the spirit of democracy. Things have got worse in the past few years and it has been observed that the relations between the ruling party members and the Opposition have not only deteriorated, but instead of being adversarial have been reduced to being hostile and bordering on enmity.

The role of the presiding officers too has been under scrutiny and both the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Upper House have to ensure that they remain neutral in their dealings, and are not viewed as tilting towards the ruling dispensation, a charge that the Opposition has been making repeatedly.

Many Parliamentary practices and conventions have taken a back seat and no effort is made to accommodate the various opinions which are sought to be expressed in the House. The problem arises because the forum is also being used to twist facts or distort what is being stated. Inputs from outside are introduced even while reporting on what has happened inside. This is in total violation of how the House was run and how the deliberations were reported.

What needs to be clearly understood is that the complexion of the Lok Sabha has changed. The BJP’s numbers have come down from 303 to 240. The Opposition’s strength has gone up and therefore keeping in view the new reality, the attitude and the approach to matters have to be also according to the transformed equations. The ruling dispensation must realise that the Opposition would be more vocal and therefore, there should be a strategy which should be in place.

What needs to be done is greater emphasis on consultations with the floor managers and more effective functioning of the Business advisory groups. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister as also the Speaker’s office must reach out to the Opposition in order to have a smooth conduct of proceedings.

In the recently concluded session, it was observed that the Prime Minister, who is both the leader of the Lok Sabha and the head of the government was booed while he was speaking and the Opposition also staged a walkout. This is not how the members should react.
Equally important is that the treasury benches should not interrupt the Leader of Opposition and permit him to have his say. The Congress grouse is that when Rahul Gandhi was speaking, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Defence Minister, got up to either contradict him or give a distorted complexion to what he had stated.

If at any point the government felt that the statements being made by the LoP were inaccurate, the contrasting facts should have been placed on the floor of the House instead of interruptions. A single line denial for instance is not sufficient when there is a reference to Agniveer, which has become a contentious issue in many parts of the country amongst the youth wanting to join the armed forces, and thus needs to be looked with an open mind.

Similarly, the farmers in some regions are unhappy and their grievances need to be adequately addressed without any further delay. There has also been dissatisfaction over the expunging of remarks of Opposition leaders. The rule so far has been that only unparliamentary language needs to be erased and not every word. The contrary assertions can also exist in the records side by side. However, these matters can be settled if there is closer consultation between the two sides.

It was certainly against the rules that the LoP exhibited photographs of Gods and saints inside the Lok Sabha. This was also equally true when the BJP members would raise slogans of Jai Shri Ram and make other chants while the Prime Minister was speaking in the Lok Sabha that existed prior to this one.

The problem is that both sides realise that what they are doing at times was against the conduct rules but continue to do so. This is where better sense has to prevail. The Opposition is unhappy with the presiding officers who in their perception always go out of the way to side with the government.

The Rajya Sabha Chairman can avoid making comments on those who are speaking and instead allow them to express themselves. So far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, it was evident that when the ruling party decided to repeat the presiding officer, the decision would be interpreted as an act of provocation, given the fact that the Speaker had in the previous Lok Sabha suspended a large number of Opposition members.

The larger point is of running the House, and for this unless greater accommodation is demonstrated by the ruling party, and the government reaches out to the Opposition, things would remain unchanged. Between us.

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