Cry vendetta, stall Parliament

After a week of smooth functioning of the Parliament, the main opposition, i.e. the Congress has caused disruption in both houses that is obstructing the passing of the GST bill - a crucial tax reform. A consensus was expected to emerge in the house regarding this bill in this session after the ice-breaking meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi along with their colleagues on November 27. But matters seem to be taking a different turn now.

The opposition and ruling parties are at loggerheads over an issue which is purely judicial. Why should the Parliament be made a battle ground for an issue which needs to be sorted legally? Subramanian Swamy, a lawyer, had in individual capacity filed a petition in the Court in January 2013 when he was not even a BJP member. His allegation is against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul that they used $13.5 million of party funds to pay debts accrued by National Herald newspaper business, although it has been denied by them. Rather, Sonia Gandhi has suddenly started emphasising that she is the “Daughter in Law of Indira Gandhi” whereas Rahul Gandhi has alleged that it is a political vendetta which has happened on the instruction of Prime Minister’s office. Does Rahul Gandhi mean that the Prime Minister’s office controls the Delhi High Court? By alleging interference, is Rahul Gandhi also casting aspersion on the Judiciary? If it is vendetta, why didn’t the Congress party raise this when the case was filed, why now when the High Court judge rejected the exemption petition and directed the Congress leaders to appear before the trial court?

It is the prerogative of the judiciary to accept a case prima facie. If the case is really built on flimsy grounds, that will be judged by the Court. Why should there be any  pre-judgement when the rule of law is already acting on it? If at all Congress believes that there is no merit in the case and if at all this is a political vendetta, Congress should have by now gone to the Supreme Court to seek relief based on the said ground. Then why is the Congress buying time and putting pressure on BJP by stalling the Parliament proceedings?

Another surprising factor is the silence of other opposition parties. Earlier all opposition parties came united to fight against the Government on any pertinent issue. If this is a real political vendetta, then all parties could have come together to fight against the treasury bench and could have had a debate or discussion as the Finance Minister and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister have appealed for the same. But all other parties have become silent spectators in the house while the Congress is disrupting the house activities. Whether it is a real vendetta or the Congress crying foul, will be made clear in due course. There are similar instances against other political parties when the UPA was in power.

Considering the output of different Parliament sessions after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office, one could easily find how tough it has been for the NDA government to manage the floor. Modi and his team were considered to be arrogant leaders and not taking the Opposition along with them in parliamentary matters. However, the developments before this winter session makes the situation look different. The Prime Minister and his colleagues approached the Opposition leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had separate meetings and sought their cooperation for smooth running of the houses. The gesture of other Opposition leaders indicated that things may move professionally and everyone was expecting a good debate over pertinent issues and major bills. But suddenly the disruption by Congress has stalled everything.

If we study the statistics thoroughly, one could easily find both Congress and the BJP are in the league of disrupting the house proceedings. After BJP’s disruption in house during 2009 -2014 tenure, it is now probably the effort of Congress to beat BJP. When NDA was in power and Congress was in opposition during 13th Lok Sabha, 297 bills were passed whereas UPA II could pass only 179 bills out of the planned 328 bills during its 2009-2014 term. During UPA II, BJP had disrupted the house and the time wasted was 61 percent and the dismissal in the upper house was 66 percent. The Congress is probably on a mission to defeat the BJP in creating record of disruption. Hence the effort to disrupt the house as much as possible. Out of the sessions happened during NDA II, only the two budget sessions in 2014 and 2015 have been conducted peacefully and saw good sittings with effective legislative work. But apart from those two budget sessions, the rest sessions, which include winter session of 2014, monsoon session of 2015, have been recorded moderate and very poor performance resulting to loss of public money. It was expected that the winter session which started on November 26, 2015 would be fruitful. The legislative agenda includes 19 Bills currently pending in the Parliament for consideration and passage. 14 new bills are proposed to be introduced. But the after the judicial proceedings on National Herald issue, the Opposition has taken a different turn altogether.

Now, the fate of the GST bill and many such other bills have gone for a toss if the strategy of the Congress party to disrupt the house continues. Even though there is no thumb rule, it is as much the responsibility of the Opposition to ensure smooth parliamentary process. If such trends continue, it may cost the Government and its ambitions, and also the public dearly. Political parties should not forget that the greater interests of ordinary people are what gets affected by such acts.    

(Views expressed are strictly personal)
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