[《First ensure Parliament doesn’t actually function, then try to convince
the public that the disruption was the Congress’ fault. Earlier, the
government announced that none of the MPs of the ruling National Democratic
Alliance would claim their salaries for the 23 days of the Session, also to
protest the washout, though that move was criticised by the non-BJP parties.
... (The) BJP has put out guidelines, telling its MPs to “avoid food at
restaurants and places frequented by people” and not to “click selfies
while having food or allow any one to click pictures”.》]
Deflecting blame: How Narendra Modi wants to spin the dysfunction of the
The least productive Parliament Session in 18 years should be a wake-up
call. But for most, it is politics as usual.
Deflecting blame: How Narendra Modi wants to spin the dysfunction of the
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in LS | पीटीआई
14 hours ago
Do Indians care who is responsible for stalling Parliament? The
just-concluded Budget Session has been the least productive for both Houses
since 2000, with the Lok Sabha working for just 21% of its scheduled time.
This is actually far lower than the 85% productivity the lower House has
managed over the course of the last four years, yet it does not feel like a
remarkable departure from the norm. This is because the sight of Members of
Parliament marching into the well of either House to protest something
followed by adjournment is so routine that any actual work comes as a
surprise. It also explains why the word ruckus is so commonplace in Indian
Despite the general sense of cynicism that comes with people’s expectations
of their representatives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata
Party President Amit Shah are going to spend Thursday trying to convince
the public otherwise. Modi and Shah are set to lead a day-long fast, with
other BJP MPs expected to follow suit.
The aim of this symbolic protest? “To expose the Congress for its
undemocratic style of functioning, and pursuing divisive politics and
anti-development agenda,” said a party statement. An advisory from the
party told all MPs to observe the fast and tell the public how the Congress
has “murdered democracy by stalling Parliament”.
Was the Congress responsible for stalling Parliament? The answer to this
must include an explanation of why there was an 18-year-low in
Parliamentary productivity. It was not due to a scam, as with the stalling
of Parliament by the BJP in the year after the 2G spectrum corruption case
emerged. It was also not due to any controversial legislation, like the
Land Acquisition Amendments at the start of Modi’s tenure.
Instead, the most prominent action that took place in Parliament, following
the passage of the Budget, were the several notices of motions of
no-confidence moved against the government. The lack of order meant that
these motions never even made it to the floor, allowing the BJP to avoid
even a perfunctory discussion on its record over the last four years. The
BJP’s numbers in the Lok Sabha meant that there would never have been any
danger to the government from the motion, yet even a debate on the matter
might have led to uncomfortable scenes and headlines.
So, significantly, despite multiple parties – including the Congress –
asking for the BJP to prove its majority on the floor of the Lok Sabha, a
democratic exercise that affirms the people’s faith in the government of
the day, Parliament was ultimately adjourned without taking up those
motions. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha complained constantly that there was
not enough order for her to count the 50 MPs who were needed to allow a
no-confidence motion be taken up.
Early on, the Congress among other Opposition parties was disrupting the
session, demanding various things like a debate on the Punjab National Bank
scam. The loudest protests came from the Andhra Pradesh parties, demanding
special status for their state. But most of these had quieted down by the
end of the Session, with a number of those parties having moved the
no-confidence motions. Yet the Speaker continued to adjourn the Lok Sabha.
The ostensible reason given was the constant disruption, towards the end,
by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which was protesting the
government’s failure to implement a Supreme Court order requiring the
constitution of a Cauvery Water Management Board. But it seemed a given
that the AIADMK protest was being used as a fig-leaf to prevent the Lok
Sabha from functioning and allow the BJP get away without a debate on the
That objective having been accomplished, the BJP now wants to put a cherry
on the top of its successful tactic: First ensure Parliament doesn’t
actually function, then try to convince the public that the disruption was
the Congress’ fault. Earlier, the government announced that none of the MPs
of the ruling National Democratic Alliance would claim their salaries for
the 23 days of the Session, also to protest the washout, though that move
was criticised by the non-BJP parties.
Now Modi and Shah are hoping to drive the point home with a fast, one that
they hope will be seen as being more credibly conducted than the Congress’
fast on April 9 against violence. That symbolic protest by the Congress was
seemingly derailed by pictures of the party’s MPs enjoying a hefty
breakfast in the morning, and later by the sight of riot-tainted ministers
being present at the sight.
To avoid the same embarrassment, the BJP has put out guidelines, telling
its MPs to “avoid food at restaurants and places frequented by people” and
not to “click selfies while having food or allow any one to click pictures”.
Will one fast succeed where the other floundered? It is unlikely, since the
aforementioned cynicism about Parliament functioning means this is not an
emotive issue for the public at large. Moreover, conventional wisdom seems
to suggest this Session is not going to be a one-off: With political
parties moving into election mode, the chances of any significant business
being transacted in Parliament seem even less likely.
This says much about how parties see Parliament, as well as the image of
the institution among the public at large. Though the 16th Lok Sabha since
2014 has been more productive than the one that came before it, the BJP –
despite talk of cooperative federalism and ending High Command politics –
has continued to undermine the institution, most significantly through its
use of money bills.
Legislative decisions continued to be made outside the House and simply
hurried through from within. Few expect it to be a genuine forum for
debate. The anti-defection law and other procedural hurdles may set the
stage for this state of affairs, but they are worsened by political
attitudes towards the body. Parliamentarians would do well to look
carefully at this matter for the long-term health of what is meant to be an
institution that is representative of the Indian public. The answer to the
question of whether Indians care about who was responsible for stalling
Parliament might in fact be a more disturbing question: Do Indians care
Peace Is Doable
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