Millennium Post

Pandemonium put to shame

Parliamentary behaviour in India ebbed to its lowest last week. The pepper spray episode and the hooliganism indulged into by the Congress members from Andhra Pradesh would give a new meaning to phrases like ‘Pandemonium broke into the house’. Even Milton’s fallen angels at their grand assembly – Pandemonium – did not behave in the undignified manner in the way our parliamentarians decided to do.

BJP veteran and today probably senior most member of Parliament, Lal Krishna Advani appropriately called the 13 February incident ‘mayhem’. In his blog last week Advani said, ‘Manmohan Singh began his tenure with a clean personal reputation. But as his decade-long tenure is coming to a close, he would leave behind him a record of having presided over the most corrupt government in independent India.’

Singh’s crime is graver than just presiding over a corrupt government. He as prime minister did little to arrest the deterioration of parliamentary institutions to the state where it found itself on 13 February 2014. The show of anger in most despicable manner by a MP from Andhra Pradesh betrayed the lack of dialogue between the Congress leadership and the party parliamentarians on the issue as crucial as formation of the state of Telangana.

Having promised statehood at the last hustling, the Centre waited for full five years till the last session of parliament to bring the matter to the final stage. The matter was placed in Parliament without the state assembly passing a resolution for the creation of the new state. All this happened when we have Congress government in the state and majority of the MPs from the state are also from the ruling party. What the Centre did all these years was to get Parliament adjourned session after session due to chaos created over Telangana between the supporters and opponents of division.

The most undesirable and deplorable incident in the house took place because Manmohan Singh as the head of the political executive did little by way of providing leadership to the legislators in the state to address the problems arising out of the division and finding solutions for them. He could have taken a leaf out of the book of his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The National Democratic Alliance government under Vajpayee created three states of Uttarkhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The BJP was not in power in the states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. RJD leader Lalu Yadav, whose party was in power in Bihar, had threatened that the state would be created over his dead body. Despite these hurdles, the three state assemblies passed resolutions for the creation of the states.

The NDA could do it because its leadership at the Centre engaged the governments and the legislators in the states. Inability to engage the political class has been one of the major weaknesses of Manmohan Singh government. Last week in these very columns your reporter almost prophetically wrote, ‘Manmohan Singh’s relationship with Indian legislature has been dichotomous and indifference his best tool to have his way through. This may have helped Singh to keep his chair but it has been galling experience for the Indian polity and people.’  As mentioned last week and earlier in this piece, the biggest loser in the process has been the Indian parliamentary institutions. The prime ministers from the past like Jawaharlal Nehru or Atal Bihari Vajpayee functioned from the strength of their standing in Parliament. The other prime ministers may not have matched Nehru’s and Vajpayee’s oratorical skills but parliamentary system was ingrained in their personality be it an authoritarian Indira Gandhi, Machiavellian P V Narasimha Rao or leader of small groups like Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Viswanath Pratap Singh, Chandrashekhar, H D Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral.

None among Singh’s predecessors practised indifference to the legislature the way the present prime minister has done. In fact, Manmohan Singh as finance minister in Narasimha Rao government too did not practise apathy the way he does now.

Questions would be asked why Singh does it the way he does it. While history, as Singh himself has said, should give us an answer but for the current it has definitely projected an absolutely abysmal image of the nation with none in command to rain in negativisms pervading the social and political environment.

Even Congress’s almost supreme leader Rahul Gandhi has done little to dismantle the impression that he has a disdain for Parliament. Having spent 10 years in Lok Sabha, Gandhi has made only fleeting visits to the House and made sporadic interventions, which his party leaders have tried to explain as momentous.

If  Gandhi’s presence in Parliament had been monumental, the show of complete lack of demenour by his party MPs from Andhra Pradesh would have been avoided. As party leader, Gandhi must realise his role to engage members of the parliamentary party and play a direct role in finalising party’s floor strategy.

In past few years, one has been left wondering who controls floor management of the Congress party inside Parliament. Manmohan Singh makes no bones about the fact that he has no control. Rahul Gandhi often makes public his disdain for parliamentary colleagues. Congress president is not in the pink of her health to take charge of rigours of floor management. This has left the parliamentary performance of the Congress lacking in lustre for the larger part of the term and fall to the level of utter disgrace in the current session.

 PS: The Telangana Bill was finally passed on Wednesday amidst din and blacking out telecast of the proceedings.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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