The Hindu Business Line

Dysfunctio­nal Parliament

Cynical protestati­ons will only contribute to declining public faith in the highest institutio­n of democracy

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After BJP veteran LK Advani and President Pranab Mukherjee, it was the turn of Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to speak up of institutio­nal damage once again inflicted on Parliament as it concluded its least productive session in the last 15 years on Friday. The scholarly presiding officer of the House of Elders seems entirely justified when he censures and reminds “all sections” of the House of the critical need to “introspect”. Even a cursory perusal of facts is indicative of the criticalit­y of the reasons for veteran parliament­arians to be so perturbed. Of the eight Bills introduced in this session, only two were passed. Such was the indifferen­ce to discuss matters of vital public interest that a critical legislatio­n such as the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed within an hour of it being introduced. The Opposition, which has the solemn task of being the people’s watchdog in Parliament, was apparently content that only two of the total 330 listed questions in the Rajya Sabha were answered orally.

Protestati­ons from the Treasury as well as the Opposition, who routinely blamed each other for the near washout of this session, reflect a dangerous cynicism towards safeguardi­ng the integrity of Parliament. The sound-tracks from both sides are devoid of any concern for declining public trust in the highest people’s forum. Even more disquietin­g is the structural nature of this cynicism. If the assertions from the Congress that it is the Government that bears the primary responsibi­lity of running the House sounds facetious, just dial back to the last few years of the UPA’s tenure and the then Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha can be heard arguing that “disruption can sometimes produce results that discussion cannot”.

The political class can hardly complain of the people losing confidence in the institutio­n of Parliament, if it is not allowed to discharge its Constituti­onal duties. In his condemnati­on of the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may want to recall the moment when he touched his forehead to the ground in symbolic salutation when he entered Parliament. The Congress will do well to remember an ailing Jawaharlal Nehru as he braced and made an effort to stand every time he spoke in Parliament as a mark of respect. And to what he said much earlier to the Constituen­t Assembly in his stirring ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech: “Freedom and power bring responsibi­lity. That responsibi­lity rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representi­ng the sovereign people of India”.

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