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Saturday, 3 December 2011

It’s unacceptable

''Elected people are undermining Parliament.''

More than a week into the winter session, Parliament has not transacted any business. It has now become the norm that any and every issue is used to block its functioning through shouting, stalling, adjournments, walkouts and all kinds of right and wrong means of disruption. The previous sessions were also completely or nearly lost for various reasons.

The deadlock over the kind of enquiry to be held into the 2G spectrum scandal had washed a whole session away. Other issues damaged other sessions and now the issue of the government’s decision on FDI in retail is threatening to drown the current session. Unfortunately our parliamentarians do not believe that no issue is bigger than the existence of Parliament. It is ironical that these are the same men and women who had told the nation, in the face of Anna Hazare’s agitation, that Parliament is above civil society and is supreme. What supremacy is being asserted by disrupting and undermining it every day?

Disagreement with the government on any issue is now used as an excuse to stall Parliament. It is the place to talk about issues and to take decisions. But there is a refusal to talk now. There is no reason to block Parliament on the latest issue of discord. The decision on FDI legitimately lies in the executive realm and the  government’s decision was well within its powers.

It is the government’s fault that it did not ensure the support of at least its own allies for the decision. But that does not give the Opposition the right to insist that Parliament would not function unless the decision was withdrawn. If Parliament is not allowed to function when decisions unacceptable to some parties are taken, the elemental principles of parliamentary governance are questioned and threatened.

The parliamentary system of government in the country is at a critical turning point now. Parliament is the point where governance and politics meet. Narrow politics has made governance difficult and sometimes  impossible. Cynicism has grown among the people about the working of democratic institutions, including Parliament, and the conduct of politicians.

This cynicism is corrosive and will eat into the vitals of our system. It is for those who have sworn to protect and uphold  the Constitution to ensure that the system which is created on its foundation does not collapse. We may be only one or two wrecked sessions away from the tipping point.


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