Modi govt’s contempt for institutions like Parliament a clear and present danger for Indian democracy
The monsoon session of Parliament proved that PM Modi’s assurances that any issues can be raised there were only part of Modi's style of rhetoric, hollow and meaningless
A government indebted to the ideology of fascism would have no regard for Parliament and its practices. For namesake, it may do lip service to parliamentary system. In actual terms, its intention is to undermine the institutions of democracy, of which Parliament is an vital component. The more they talk about parliamentary discussions and debates, the more they attempt to sabotage it from within.
The RSS-BJP government has excelled in implementing fascist strategy with its pseudo adherence to Parliament and the debates there. The happenings during the recently concluded monsoon session of the Parliament unveiled these very intentions of the BJP and its government.
The Parliament session was scheduled to be held from July 19 to August 13. After conducting a stormy session for 17 days, both the houses of the Parliament were adjourned sine die. Within this time span they managed to pass 32 bills, 19 in the Rajya Sabha and 13 in Lok Sabha. Many of these bills have far reaching effect on the country's socio-economic conditions. Yet, they were passed within 85 minutes on an average. The irony was 14 of these bills were passed in less than 10 minutes on an average.
The government, in its frenzy to pass as many bills of its choice, has forgotten even the essential features of law making. It seems afraid that debates on bills would expose its hidden agenda behind many of the laws being enacted.
For any effective legislation, it is imperative to listen to the other side also. The opposition has the right and duty to raise the people’s voice during the course of law making. A government need to provide for such meaningful debates in Parliament.
But the Modi government by its very nature has no regard for this kind of a parliamentary functioning. While they talk about the productivity level of the Parliament, the government ignores the truth that its own undemocratic stance is the main hindrance for this productivity.
On the eve of the session in his extremely short speech to the floor leaders of the house, the Prime Minister assured that any issues can be raised, and the government is ready to answer them. The monsoon session proved that those assurances were only part of Modi's style of rhetoric, hollow and meaningless!
When the Parliament loses its precious time and debates are not providing life to it, it is a matter of concern for every citizen. But who was responsible for such a situation? It is none other than the government. It was its adamant stand not to allow any mentioning of the word Pegasus in the Parliament of India that caused all the unfortunate happenings in the house. The opposition members tried to raise the issue of the State sponsored snooping through the Israeli malware. The opposition members attempted to use all the opportunities entitled to them through the rules of procedure to raise the burning issues like Pegasus, farmers struggle, price rice, unemployment, atrocities on weaker sessions etc.
On every step, the government tried to prevent them in an arrogant and cowardice manner. Even the questions related to Pegasus were suppressed. Meanwhile, RSS-BJP unleashed a vicious propaganda campaign accusing the opposition for the ruckus in Parliament. It is true that the opposition tried to oppose the bulldozing of anti-people bills. They tried to reflect the anger and anguish of the peasants and workers, the Dalits and the youth. The opposition was only trying to fulfil its duty by vehemently opposing the draconian bills related to general insurance, essential defence services, tribunal reforms, marine fisheries, insolvency, and bankruptcy code etc.
At the same time, the opposition parties cooperated with the government in passing the OBC reservation bill unanimously. It wholeheartedly took part in the meaningful discussion to face the COVID menace. That political maturity and sense of responsibility was not shared by the government even for a single minute in the monsoon session.
The united plea from the opposition to refer important bills like the General Insurance Amendment Bill to select committee was unheeded by them. Reference of bills to select committees or standing committees are tested measures of parliamentary scrutiny. But the BJP government has total contempt for it.
During UPA govt’s regime, 71 percent of the bills went for such scrutiny whereas BJP has brought it down to mere 11 percent. The country can only laugh when such a party like BJP gives sermons on parliamentary ethics and productivity.
When the BJP was out of power, the then leader of opposition Arun Jaitley had stated, “Parliament’s job is to conduct discussions but many a time Parliament is used to ignore issues and in such situations obstruction of Parliament is in the favour of democracy. Therefore, parliamentary obstruction is not undemocratic". Now the very same BJP is looking to malign the opposition for its just attempt to uphold democratic principles of dissent and discussion.
The monsoon session witnessed the atrocious face of the BJP government. It tried to convert the Parliament, the sanctum sanctorum of democracy, into a military barrack. It mobilized unknown musclemen in blue uniforms to manhandle opposition members, specially targeting the left MPs. This act was its natural reaction to the role of the left in the Parliament, though small in numbers.
Irrespective of the government’s tactics of high handedness, the monsoon session provided a broad platform for the opposition parties to come together for a united resistance.
Through better floor co-ordination and a joint march in solidarity with the farmers agitation, 14 opposition parties communicated a new message to the masses. Their struggle inside the Parliament was to uphold the Constitution, which states in Article 107: ".... a bill shall not be deemed to have been passed by the Houses of Parliament, unless it has been agreed to by both houses..."
Outside, they tried to become the voice of the struggling masses. That is why the government and the sangh parivar are working overtime to tarnish the image of the opposition parties.
Parliament cannot sit idle and chant songs of praise to the government. When the exploiters take away the rights of the people, the history of fascism says that the appropriators and their government would not hesitate to suppress even the Parliament. In India, the BJP is moving on that path. Hence, the time has come for everyone, defenders of democracy, to rally together to protect our parliamentary democracy and constitutional principles.
Views are personal