Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BJP whipping dead horses to stall Parliament.....

This is getting predictable. The BJP has decided that it will not allow Parliament to function. Whatever it takes. Whatever the excuse. The aggression the party demonstrates in stalling Parliament is legendary. The entire winter session last year was stalled by the BJP demanding a JPC. If there is no such new demand this time, then it will bring back old dead horses to life and whip them into a political frenzy.

The intention of the BJP was clear even before Parliament began. On Sunday after the Speaker’s meeting with all parties, the BJP started its moves. While everyone mouthed platitudes and promised a smooth functioning of Parliament, the peace broke down as soon as the party ended. The PM took a dig at the BJP (the now famous “skeletons” remark) and the BJP reacted with“touch me not” sensitivity. The PM has vitiated the atmosphere they claimed. And what about all the vitiation that the BJP itself was responsible for? The BJP takes jabs at the ruling party all the time (and that’s part of democracy we are told), but when the ruling party returns fire, it is to be taken as vitiating the atmosphere? In any case, it was so small an issue that it just shouldn’t have become so big. For the BJP, it was a good enough reason. For me, it was another piece of a predictable pattern. The BJP simply will not let Parliament function smoothly. If they cannot stall Parliament for a full session like they did during the last winter session, they will stall it in small bursts and fits.....but they will ensure that important legislative work is disrupted. They are not interested in the debates. They are interested in making work stop.

Let me explain what I mean by whipping dead horses. Take the CWG issue. Now, this issue has scalded the government to no end. It’s suffered a huge blow to its credibility already. Suresh Kalmadi has been in jail for more than 3-4 months. There are cases going on to establish his culpability. The CBI and the Supreme Court are investigating several charges against Kalmadi. There is no reason why the really silly question of who appointed Kalmadi to be in charge of the CWG games should take one day off the legislative calendar. Frankly who cares who appointed him? Such stupid points have no relevance. They waste everyone’s time. The Congress expectedly responded by pointing out that the UPA’s hands were tied – the NDA had committed legally that the IOA would be the organizing committee (and not a “government nominee”). And the IOA – in which a majority of members belonged to the BJP, or at least to non-Congress parties – voted Kalmadi as its Chairman. Hence Kalmadi came to run the show. Frankly, how would it have been any different if it had been a “government nominee” running the show? Corruption would still have been there. The government’s defence also looks specious. Surely, they could have removed him if they wanted to. If they had known that the matter would explode like this 7-8 years later, they would have removed him. But they had no clue at that time. So this argument that their hands were tied is rubbish. What is also equally clear is that corruption would have been there even if the BJP had been running the CWG. That’s why I find the entire matter to be so idiotic – perhaps reflective of the intellectual levels of our politicians! The BJP also put out a specious argument – that even UPA ministers like Sunil Dutt and Mani Shankar Iyer had criticized the appointment of Kalmadi. Now this is intentionally obfuscating the truth. Intentionally acting dumb, when they actually know the truth. In every political party, there are debates on various matters. And there are differences of opinions. Unfortunately, these debates don’t remain private. So when things go bad, some minister can always be found who had opposed some decisions. “Consensus” is an ideal that can never be and should never be sought. There are differences between ministers.....but after a joint decision is taken.....the differences are forgotten. Then of course, there are turf wars between ministers. We the people know all this. Surely, the BJP should know this?

Then there is this entire issue of whether a debate should be followed by a vote or not. Apparently, if the ruling government loses the vote, it doesn’t fall. It just gets badly embarassed. So it’s a fair political strategy, but does the BJP really expect the government to lose the vote? Everyone knows that voting happens along lines of political alignment. It’s extremely unlikely that the UPA will suffer a loss. Besides, how many times will the BJP demand voting? The government has agreed to have it on the price rise issue. Will they similarly demand a voting on the 2G matter? My own feeling is that it’s not that the BJP expects a win; it’s just that they want to make sure that Parliament does not pass too many Bills. After all, if Parliament functions, the government’s report card improves. New laws are passed. New politices announced. Old archaic laws amended. It appears like the government is functioning well. Clearly, this is detrimental to the BJP’s interests. Ultimately, if the NDA has to replace the UPA government, they have to convince the country that the government “did not function”. They know that people blame the ruling dispensation for all problems. If Obama had not managed to get the House of Reps and the Senate to agree on common terms for the raising of the debt ceiling, and if the dollar had collapsed, then the people of America would have blamed the Democrats.....even if it were the Republicans who had played the brinkmanship game. That’s the way the cookie crumbles and the BJP and the Congress both know it. That’s why the Congress yielded ground on the voting. It’s not a sign of weakness as some TV channels tried to portray it. It’s just the accommodation that the ruling party has to show to the opposition party. That’s all. It appears that conducting Parliament is the Congress’s problem....not the BJP’s. Even if the country is damned.

It’s as much the fault of we people as it is of the politicians. We hardly ever demand efficiency from political parties. We demand explanations when there are charges of corruption; never when there are delayed or poor decisions. We never demand that our leaders take bold and visionary steps – which may sometimes fail, but if successful, can dramatically change things. We are happy with ministers who sit on decisions for years, but are not seen as corrupt (Antony for example). And we have problems with ministers who take bold steps, but get tainted somewhere along the line (Praful Patel.....we forget his good work on building the airport infrastructure in this country, but we remember his IPL fiasco). We the people need to change our mindset. While we must be keen on removing corruption, we must be equally keen on ensuring higher efficiency and bold decision making.....and we must insist on having a culture that rewards efficiency.We must not tolerate disruption of Parliament. Anyone who disrupts Parliament should be seen as a villain....not as a hero. If the opposition is unhappy, it should stage a walk out. But never stop Parliament. Our media also has to take this line. That’s the only thing that will make our politicians understand their responsibilities. Politicians must realize that no matter which party they belong to – we the people see them as losers. And sometimes, as jokers.

Should Marshalls be used to remove politicians who are stalling Parliament? I think it would be a terrible blot on our democracy. And it could backfire. We saw what happened when Marshalls were used in the Rajya Sabha to ensure the passage of the Women’s Reservation bill. There was so much political ruckus created that the bill has not even been brought to the Lok Sabha, where a similar ruckus is expected. So while using Marshalls may not be a good thing under normal circumstances.....if disruption continues, I would be willing to go with the idea. Someone needs to bring discipline to Parliament. If the members cannot do it themselves, then maybe the Marshalls should.....

The real truth is that disrupting Parliament is a political strategy of the BJP. It’s not reflective of a concern for the CWG or the 2G matters or whatever. Those are just handy issues to force a shut-down of Parliament. If it weren’t these two, there would have been some other two. If anyone thought that a day will come when there are no issues which could be used to disrupt Parliament, they are mistaken. There will always be issues. Frankly the BJP’s behavior only shows that it has no concern for the nation.....

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