The continued disruptions of the Lok Sabha provoked a strong reaction from a sidelined BJP veteran, LK Advani.
The latter has blamed both Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and his one-time protégé, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, for the logjam. The superannuated leader, who gave voice to public disgust at the systemic paralysis, found an opportunity to get even with the BJP leadership which thought it had justifiably consigned him to political oblivion. The Advani rap has re-emphasized the established democratic norm that it is the ruling party’s responsibility to smoothly run Parliament. Prime Minister Modi’s call to the party MPs to “expose” the Opposition got lost in the political excitement that Advani’s sudden outburst generated.
Opposition parties, too, need to have second thoughts if they think they are entitled to public gratitude for repeatedly highlighting hardships over demonetization. Noise is not a substitute for debate. Nor is disruption appreciated by the people who pay for it. Getting the day’s allowances without work should weigh on their conscience. It needs a level-headed legislator to articulate what agitates him. Who benefits from thoughtless sloganeering and kicking up of ruckus? A divided Opposition has weakened its case. AAP and TMC insist on a repeal of the demonetization notification. Most parties support the move against black money but agitate over its flawed implementation without offering alternatives or ways to plug loopholes. There was a lot opposition parties could do to pin down the government but by running away from debate they have perhaps ended up playing to the government-scripted tune.
With just three effective sittings left for the winter session the government has got away lightly. A Bill to tax black or undeclared money was cleared by voice vote within minutes of being taken up as a money Bill in the Lok Sabha without a discussion. If GST is delayed, the blame would be passed on to the recalcitrant Opposition. Both sides have managed to skip a debate or action on the related issue of political funding. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has demanded that bribing voters and paid news should be made cognizable offences. For the Opposition and the government these do not seem to be priority issues.