Parliament logjam continues as all-party meeting ends in stalemate

India's Parliament building . All is not well within
India's Parliament building . All is not well within

NEW DELHI (TIP): A special sitting of Lok Sabha held on May 13, 2012, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament of India had passed a unanimous resolution to “uphold and maintain the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of Parliament, to make Parliament an effective instrument of change and to strengthen democratic values and principles”. They also resolved to “enhance the accountability of government towards the people through the oversight of Parliament and re-dedicate ourselves completely to the sacred task of nation building”.

It is obvious that the Parliamentarians had short memory and forgot their resolution as soon as it was passed. The BJP, in its avatar as the main opposition party, stalled the proceedings of Parliament for days together on the issues of 2G and coal allotment scandals. It is now facing a similar situation as the main ruling party, with the opposition Congress not allowing any discussion in the House till its demand for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is accepted.

Even before the scheduled all party meeting on Monday, which again failed to resolve the deadlock, the two sides were sharpening their knives. The first salvo was fired by none other than the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely who wrote on Facebook on Sunday that the Congress had not raised objections on the critical GST Bill when its own Minister Pranab Mukherji had piloted the Bill or when P Chidambaram had proposed it in 2006. Stating that he was using the forum of Facebook as the Parliament was stalled, he attacked the “obstructionist attitude” of the Congress. Earlier the Home Minister Rajnath Singh had added fire to the fuel for blaming the Congress for coining the term “Hindu terrorism” and thereby “weakening the fight against terrorism”.

The Congress, on the other hand, had launched a frontal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi when Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that “mann ki baat” prime minister seems to have taken “maun vrat” on the Modigate and Vyapam scandals. Declaring that the Party’s protest would not end till the three resign, Sonia Gandhi said that her party shall fight the “brazen attitude” of the government. In one of her strongest attacks against Modi, she said that he had turned out to be a “master re-packager, a skillful salesman, a sharp headline grabber and a clever news manager”. She said “on one hand, PM never misses an opportunity to claim moral high ground on transparency, integrity and accountability, on the other, he has been conspicuous by his deafening silence on blatant transgressions” by Sushma Swaraj and chief ministers Scindia and Chauhan.

Getting back on the BJP’s attitude as opposition party, she said “yesterday’s agitators in both the Houses have suddenly become today’s champions of debate and discussion” and rubbed it in by saying that the BJP was the author of` `resign now, debate later” principle when it was in the opposition. While the Congress and the Left parties have taken a common stand on not letting Parliament function till the three leaders resign, the BSP, Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party are not insisting on their resignations first. BSP has called for action against the three leaders but has not been participating in the protest. The NDA has offered intervention by the PM but the unbending stand taken by the Congress has brought the proceedings to a virtual standstill.

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In order to getting even with each other, the two main political parties are even digging out old skeletons. For instance, the BJP re-discovered the charges against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and alleged tax evasion by him and his family members. The Congress retaliated by digging out the old accusations againt Virbhadra Singh’s political rival former chief minster Prem Kumar Dhumal regarding allotment of land for a cricket stadium in Dharamsala. Both the issues had come out several times in the past.

The continued logjam in Parliament has led to sharp criticism from the public. The mainstream media as well as the social media have been highlighting the waste of public money. The estimates of losses vary from Rs 60 crore to about Rs 100 crore. There is now demand that the policy of “no work, no pay” should also be extended to Parliamentarians. Most of them, however, are opposed to it. Some of the Congress leaders have taken the stand that they have no objection to it provided such a policy is implemented with retrospective effect when the BJP members were the ones who had prevented functioning of the two Houses.

As per a survey, Lok Sabha had done only 10 per cent business and Rajya Sabha just 7 per cent business during the first nine days of the current monsoon session. The survey also pointed out that while Lok Sabha was in session for 4.2 hours, Rajya Sabha was in session for merely 2.9 hours. However most of the time was taken by disruptions of proceedings of the Parliament.

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