The Prime Minister’s choice
Narendra Modi government enters an arena of verbal shooting and wrestling of arguments for a month with the beginning of the monsoon session of Parliament today. Despite that, the Congress party has decided not to obstruct the proceedings in both the Houses and be supportive in passing the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill.
It will depend on the Modi government to choose if it wants the thunderous torrential showers from the Opposition on mishandling the issues of national importance or a smooth running of both the houses of Parliament this time.
There cannot be any denial of the fact that for all its pro-development talk, the Modi government, in the past two years, has been woefully behind the Congress-led UPA government in parliamentary business and bills passed.
Instead of looking at its own follies for not being able to get GST Bill passed in consecutive sessions, senior ministers of the government, as well as the leadership of Bhartiya Janta Party have been accusing Congress brass for “getting sadistic pleasure” in obstructing the parliamentary business.
Legislative logjam was the result of an adamant attitude of Modi government which was showing no inclination to listen to the suggestions from Congress for passage of several key bills including GST and land acquisition amendment.
What could be more reflective of the parliamentary performance of Modi government that did not introduce any fresh bill in the last Budget Session. Past two years have seen the introduction of only 74 new bills in the Parliament. The government has actually drafted only 23 new bills after May 2014 and feels that “the country is not ruled by legislation alone”.
Those in government claim that quality is important and not the quantity; new bills should be introduced when absolutely necessary; and what is more important is that long pending issues have been addressed need to be told that only 8 of the 60 bills pending from the previous Lok Sabha sessions have been passed in the 16th Lok Sabha.
During 10 years of UPA rule, 8 out of 37 pending bills were passed in 15th Lok Sabha and 6 out of 30 pending bills went through in 14th Lok Sabha. UPA-I had introduced 245 new bills in Parliament and UPA-II 228. The dip in the number of bills during UPA-II was mainly because of the washout of the winter session in 2010 when BJP as an Opposition party paralysed both the houses of Parliament and the Lok Sabha lost 94 percent of its time and Rajya Sabha 98 percent. Productivity in the 15th Lok Sabha was the worst in five decades as the BJP was stalling the business every other day.
If we compare Modi government’s parliamentary record with that of Congress government, we will find that BJP was more disruptive during UPA regime than Congress in Modi’s rule.
In the first five sessions of Modi government, the Lok Sabha functioned for 704 hours of the total 711 hours available. That means only 7 hours were lost because of disruptions. And, what happened during first five sessions of UPA-II? 768 hours were scheduled for the business in Lok Sabha and 219 hours of them were lost in disruptions.
Those who think that Congress had been unfair to Modi government in Parliament must also know that Budget session in 2015 recorded the highest percentage of working hours over the past 22 sessions. The percentage of work was 122 in Lok Sabha and 101 in Rajya Sabha during this particular session.
Any government which gives a damn to the Opposition has no right to lament if the productivity in Parliament goes down. The primary responsibility of smooth running of sessions lies on the ruling party. Its attitude towards the Opposition decides how much support it will get from the opposition parties in Parliament.
Modi government’s contempt for the Opposition was clear from the day it refused to give the status of the Opposition Leader to the leader of the congress party in Lok Sabha. Refusing to accept valid corrections suggested by the Congress in several bills of national importance aggravated the harmony between the ruling party and the Opposition required for the smooth functioning of Parliament.
With the recent Arunachal Pradesh fiasco after Uttarakhand which has taken the confrontational politics to a new low, if BJP expects petals showering from the Congress in the monsoon session, it is asking for too much.
In spite of the below the belt hits democracy received from BJP in Arunachal and Uttarakhand, if Congress is showing positive attitude for the passage of GST bill, Prime Minister Modi must acknowledge the Opposition for its mature Parliamentary behavior.
Even after the passage of GST bill, he will need the Opposition for passing the bills related to critical labour reforms, land acquisition, taxations, and agriculture. Currently, 11 Bills are pending in Lok Sabha and 56 in Rajya Sabha.
The outcome of the monsoon session will set the stage for the remaining period of Modi government. Therefore, he needs to make a choice whether he wants more troubleshooters around him in his own setup or more troublemakers?
The country cannot afford to go down to dead-end roads of Parliamentary business. Turning the back to the urgent legislative necessities, just to keep the ego being a ruler, will prove fatal. An elected leader must be effective in the parliamentary forum as well. The floor management in the Parliament requires much more than just oratory skills.
A positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves even the impossible. But by demeaning the value of the Opposition, the Modi government will ultimately dispose the dreams of India. Your thoughts carry you wherever you want to go.
The day Modi and his colleagues will overcome their negative assumptions in governing the country, India will grow with supersonic speed and we will have no need to fudge the figures of our economic growth.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views are strictly personal.)