Logjam in Parliament

Harsha Kakar
The monsoon session of parliament is expected to be a complete washout. The loss to the exchequer will be to the tune of a few hundred crores which the country can ill afford. More important throughout the session, has been a complete lack of discussion and clearance of important bills, some of which could have an impact on the economy. The responsibility for creating the logjam could be cast on either, the opposition or the Government. Across the country news channels and newspapers played out the blame game, making one or the other responsible. The smaller political parties at times participated or at times watched the show from the side-lines. The entire world watched the performance as we juggled through from day to day.
This is not an event which has happened for the first time. It has been oft repeated at the centre and the states. It has at times been managed, sometimes ignored and at other times compromise has been reached and official business in the house  restarted and conducted. This time however, an entire session has been washed away, without an iota of business being conducted.
As far as the present logjam is concerned, I do not wish to get into the debate of who has the right of way, or who should have blinked first and taken the first step at rapprochement. I am neither a political activist, nor do I wish to involve myself in political debates. I am a citizen of this country and thus as my right as a citizen wish to discuss three issues in this article. Firstly is the level of responsibility that our politicians possess. Secondly,whether party politics and one-upmanship of the party is more important than national issues and finally whether our politicians are really interested in the nation or just themselves.
All members of Parliament, on joining are required to take an oath. Part of the oath states, “I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty that I am about to enter.” I wonder if by doing what they have done, behaved in the manner which was observed by the entire world, have they adhered to their oath?In my opinion they have failed to discharge their duty. I would like to ask them, how has the sovereignty and integrity of the country been upheld by refusing to let the parliament function. They have completely failed as a body, and truly deserve no better than to be treated with disdain and contempt.
I truly wonder, are our politicians a responsible lot, are they aware of their actions or are they like a herd of cattle moving in the direction their leaders point them in and let them go. I wonder if they could even from their heart answer, how would the resignation of the ministers, that they have desired benefitted the discussion and passing of essential bills that the nation so urgently needed. Thus it clearly emerges that the needs of the nation are completely secondary to the needs and ego of the political parties. In their opinion it seems that national interests be dammed, but their party interests must be upheld.
Is India a nation where the political party is supreme, where one person decides what everyone in the party should do. I wonder if political parties truly debate on their future course of action or only follow what the leadership decides, even though this could be detrimental to the nation. There are a few thinkers, who would and have spoken against core party decisions, and without naming them, I would say that they are truly respected by one and all.
I read about the reasons given by political parties, and their leaders, what brings forth is that because it was done by the present Government when it was in opposition, it will be repeated. Those now stalling the proceedings claim that they made their ministers resign when they were in power, why not now. This actually reminds me of school children, telling their teacher, if she/ he could do this, why not me. They are supposed to be mature leaders, but behave like school kids. There was not one logical answer given, not one reason which could justify spending billions of the tax payers money and resorting to sloganeering and obstructing the functioning of a democracy. Yet, all they have been doing is demanding an increase in salaries and perks. It is clear that for the politician, it is only themselves  which counts, the nation be dammed.
There are enough powers across the globe, who would want the Indian economy to grow at a much slower rate than it is growing now. They would try everything to put impediments into our growth rate. I wonder, by having behaved the way, the political parties did, are we helping those inimical to our interests, intentionally or unintentionally. There are many politicians, who whenever they speak in their constituencies, lament that the present Government is not doing enough to create jobs and industry. However, when it comes to debating and clearing crucial bills, which could lead to improving and enhancing the economic development of the nation they resort to logjams and prevent smooth progress.
India is a democracy, and everyone has the right to protest and object. However, when this protest affects the functioning of the National Government, and is resorted to in a manner to paralyze decision making, with a refusal to even discuss critical bills, which would affect the nation, then this behaviour merits criticism.I wonder as to why the functioning of Parliament cannot also be brought under the maintenance of essential services act (MESA). After all their functioning, for the limited period that the Parliament is in session is essential for the betterment of the nation.
The framers of our constitution would never ever have realized or expected the type of behaviour we now see on the floor of the house. They would never have thought that the country could deteriorate politically so much that an entire session could go through, without even discussing one bill.
One very sorry issue which has emerged from this entire episode is that the responsibility of running the country is only that of the Government (party in power) whereas the complete responsibility of the opposition is only to stall its functioning and be an impediment in every way. This new thought, seen clearly for the first time, is a very sad example for any mature democracy. It shows only obstructionism as the method of functioning of the Parliament, constructiveness which should have been exhibited is completely missing. This sorry state of affairs should never have been allowed to pass. It would only be a precursor for worse to happen in the years ahead. Who will now take responsibility for this new deplorable strategy?
No matter who has been responsible for the present logjam, no matter who is right or wrong, this time, maybe things have gone too far. The nation has seen on television the way politicians have behaved, observed the manner in which national interests have been ignored and watched the Government being forced to cancel all business even at a loss to the country’s exchequer. I do not think that for quite some time, these very leaders could even contemplate asking for more perks or salary considering the loss they have caused.
I sincerely hope that the debate on no work, no pay truly becomes a national one and is projected with a single voice nationally and adopted for all future parliamentary sittings, enforcing reducing pay and perks for each day, a politician misses his responsibility, which is attending the house of parliament he is elected or nominated to.
(The author is former Major General)


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