It’s not just Parliament that is paralysed. India is paralysed. At one level, bills are stuck, files don’t move. At another, eyes are shut, minds are closed. All that happens is: Politicians get their allowances and their perks without let or hindrance.
Galbraith saw a functioning anarchy in the 1960s. Today, even as an anarchy, we are unable to function. The irony is that what party leaders say of their opponents is absolutely true. Except that it applies as much to them as to their opponents.
Consider Sonia Gandhi’s charges. “Stalling Parliament is a matter of shame and regret”. True of the BJP today, true of the Congress yesterday. “Blackmailing has become the bread and butter of that party”. True of the BJP today, of the Congress yesterday.
Consider the BJP leaders’ charges. “A staple diet of the Congress is kickbacks and commissions”. True of the Congress today, of the BJP yesterday, and of the BJP state governments today. “Coal reserves distribution is nothing but chori”. True of the Congress today and true of the BJP yesterday and today if we replace “coal reserves” with iron ore and denotified lands.
It is true of the NCP, Samajwadi, JD(U), DMK and the rest of them, too. Everywhere in everything, there is nothing but chori. Let us not forget how the stalling of Parliament originated as a parliamentary practice. This “matter of shame and regret” was invented by Sanjay Gandhi.
In the 1977 election following the Emergency, he and his mother were defeated. In the 1980 elections, they won and Sanjay went all out to show his might. As a 1987 book put it: “Sanjay Gandhi inducted (into Parliament) young, ambitious, inexperienced rowdies whose contempt for procedure and penchant for violent means” destroyed the character of Parliament. (In Pursuit of Lakshmi. By Lloyd and Rudolph).
Shouting down opposition MPs was the daily routine of the rowdy brigade. That culture has continued. Recall the famous TV footage that showed Sonia exploding in anger when L K Advani described UPA II as illegitimate. She asked her partymen to stand up and attack Advani. Dozens of obedient Congressmen stood up and shouted and disrupted Advani.
Sonia acted like Sanjay Gandhi. Of all the disruption campaigns we have seen in the recent past, the BJP’s current one is the most puerile. Its stand is: “The Prime Minister must resign. We won’t let Parliament function until he does”. What kind of parliamentary practice is this? Next time they might as well say: “Voters must give us a majority.
Or we won’t allow the legislature to meet. ” Yashwant Sinha is one of the few balanced men in the BJP’s front benches. Even he was reduced to compiling a list of the occasions when the Congress prevented Parliament from functioning. As if one wrong justifies another wrong. In fact, the very transgressions of the Congress gave the BJP a golden opportunity to show how it was different.
If the BJP had steadfastly supported the idea of Parliament proceeding with dignified debates, it could have won a great moral victory. But to do that, a party has to have a certain level of civilisation and a willingness to put the national interest above its partisan interests. The tragedy of India is that we do not have a single party today that puts the national interest first.
Which raises the question: Why do we need a non-functioning Parliament? There was a logically thought-out political philosophy in the 19th century that suffered from the name given to it—Anarchism. But its premises were sound.
It argued, for example, that people were benign by nature but corrupted by government, that government was intrinsically evil and it was preferable and possible to abolish it.
We need not go that far, but it seems undoubtedly preferable to abolish a Parliament that spends national wealth at the rate of Rs 26,000 a minute and yet refuses to function. To what purpose is this waste?