A wasted session
Parliament logjam a threat to democracy
It is a sad commentary on the functioning of our Parliament that its winter session has been washed out because of the rigid posture by both the UPA government and the Opposition over the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into mega scams like the one on the 2G spectrum allocation. The manner in which both sides have contributed to its paralysis gives rise to fears that the days of Parliament’s usefulness are numbered. There are indications that the Opposition is determined to extend the stalemate over the setting up of a JPC to the Budget session. Even as some Opposition leaders had hinted on Sunday that they might allow the smooth passage of the Finance Bill in the Budget session but will not climb down on the JPC demand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have refused to bow to the Opposition’s pressure tactic. Consequently, there is no sign of any rapprochement in the near future.
This is deeply disturbing because the victim in the entire episode is parliamentary democracy. The principal function of Parliament is to ponder over issues, inform and educate public opinion about them, sift facts from prejudice, reconcile differences and, if this is not possible, to ensure that majority opinion prevails while assuring the minority that it has to wait for another day in a fair debate. Parliament works at two levels: through public debate between policies and points of view; and in the privacy of committees in which it is agreed by consensus what is to be debated, when, for how long and under what rules.
Clearly, there is no issue which MPs cannot debate in Parliament. This not only reflects the people’s will but also the trust and confidence that people bestow upon them. However, the Opposition has abdicated its constitutional responsibility by thwarting a debate in Parliament on the mega scams. Instead of cornering the government on these issues legitimately in Parliament through measures like adjournment motion, it sought to conduct the debate on television channels and newspapers. The UPA government, too, is yet to convince the nation as to why it is against a JPC probe. Surely, this is not the way in which the affairs of the nation ought to be run. The nation expects the government and the Opposition to see reason, rectify their folly and restore the smooth functioning of Parliament.
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