Insulting Lok Sabha isn’t the muder of democracy too? Sumitra Mahajan asks Congress

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Deepak Mandal, Star Live 24
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Published On: 14:51:57 PM
Insulting Lok Sabha isn’t the muder of democracy too? Sumitra Mahajan asks Congress

New Delhi:Earlier this week,Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh made for an amusing picture of television as they demonstrated outside the parliament. They were protesting against what they said was ‘murder of democracy’. Murder? Democracy? And by what measure, please?

Were they referring to the fact that Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan were not asked to quit despite the Congress crying themselves hoarse? Or were they complaining that they were not allowed to create a din in the Lok Sabha and that qualified as murdering democracy?

Before we are accused of taking pot-shots at the Congress and others and not Bharatiya Janata Party, we hark back to the days when the latter was in the Opposition and held the UPA II to ransom in parliament demanding that Congress ministers resign over various scams. Yesterday was a just a redux of BJP's own exploits in the Parliament.

BJP's Venkaiah Naidu was quick to point out that the Congress had suspended 69 MPs during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership. However, the mutual and counter accusation does not in any manner add to the logic of the case against the suspension but highlights how opportunism marks the stands taken by parties at various times.

IThe very threat - made by several parties in the past and being made at present to - that Parliament will be held to ransom if MPs of a certain party don't have their way, is an assault on the democratic working of the country. The statement 'we will not allow it to function' itself is contemptuous of the House. If the MPs want respect, they ought to learn to respect the institution. By not doing so, the parliamentary purpose is itself being sabotaged. In short, murdered.

After they got suspended, the MPs protested outside the Parliament. The tone and method was similar, except the fact that there was no presiding officer to beseech them into orderly conduct. The sight of news photographers and news television crews pumped adrenalin in the demonstrating MPs. The dramatics inside all these days, and now outside were intended to make the Indian voter feel like the party is really working hard. However, the voter is not impressed.

The voter may well ask, and grieve, that he did his job to keep democracy alive by going to the polling booth and electing the MPs. However, their elected representatives were turning the parliament into a boxing ring, instead of undertaking their tasks seriously.

Disrupting the Parliament is such a routine in India, that it surprises us when a session has a smooth sailing.

It is not advisable to believe that if policies cannot be changed by engaging the government in a discussion, the same can be achieved through disruptions and forcing the party in the majority.

Parliament functions by numbers. A party that has majority, or support of the majority, forms the government. Those without it sit in the Opposition, and use skills of persuasion to debate and discuss the government's moves. Words can shame a government, and logic cannot fly in the face of its obduracy, but ultimately, absence of numbers can derail all Opposition The most civilised means that a party without numbers can employ is a walk-out, a tool to register a disagreement with the government. However, a majority of India's parties prefer to storm the well instead.

Going by this logic of numbers, if Manmohan Singh running a coalition had to stomach the ignominy of having a scam-accused in his cabinet who couldn’t be asked to leave because of Singh's obligation to keep the government intact and keep allies happy, then Modi too can steamroll his way over the Opposition. He, after all, enjoys absolute majority.

While Congress’s disruptive tactics and screams of ‘murder of democracy’ is as wild as the BJP’s when it was in the Opposition, it remains a fact that both have disrespected parliament. Ejection of unruly members cannot be a murderous mistake; it ought to have been employed earlier to bring order and some sense to the proceedings. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who suspended 25 members for five days ought to have done that long ago. Her predecessors, regardless of which party was in the Opposition, ought to have done that during their time.

In a parliamentary democracy, a dysfunctional parliament is of no use to anyone. Political parties seem to be comfortable with the idea of a dysfunctional Parliament and that's dangerous.

Disdain towards parliament's functional aspects by its members  is one thing. Disrespect towards the Speaker by demonstrations outside her residence is quite another. Never has a Speaker been subjected to threats, as per media reports. Burning her effigy is going to another extreme.It is an assault on the office, not criticism of any presumed or purported action.

That Mahajan simply said the motion of privilege against the ill - advised  demonstrators moved today "was under her consideration"  and not jumping to it is what parliament is all about. It is this cool - headed deliberation which is missing at other times. The Opposition's "my way or the highway" approach actually tramples traditions of democracy.

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