Boycott politics

Wrong and indefensible actions become precedents in times of turpitude and often times they come back to haunt the same source where they originated. The Congress had once enforced the boycott of a minister in the NDA government and is now at the receiving end of a similar decision taken by the NDA which is in the Opposition. Home minister P Chidambaram is being boycotted by the BJP in parliament because it thinks he is guilty, like former telecom minister A Raja, in the 2G spectrum allotment scandal. Active boycotts take the form of shouting down the victim, using other disruptive methods or walking out of the House. The BJP, which leads the NDA, has announced that the boycott will continue till the minister resigns.

It is not yet known whether Chidambaram had any role in the wrong decisions taken by Raja and only an investigation can bring out the truth. There are doubts, suspicions and allegations. The demand for an investigation is being looked into by the courts. While the court is still seized of the matter, there is no case for a boycott of the minister. He is a legitimate representative of the government and boycotting him in the House or elsewhere would amount to denial of his rights as a member of parliament and obstruction of his discharge of responsibilities as a minister.

This shows  a lack of regard for parliamentary democracy and for manners in public space. The BJP obviously wants to highlight corruption in government and perhaps wants to dramatically rub the point in that even the tallest government leaders are corrupt. But there are legitimate ways of holding the government to account for its actions and making people in power answerable for their conduct. A boycott is a primitive method of exclusion and punishment. The BJP has allowed narrow politics to override sound norms of parliamnetary conduct.

The Congress had boycotted the then defence minister, George Fernandes, when he was re-inducted into the NDA government without being cleared of some charges levelled against him. It is getting a taste of its own medicine now. The BJP had then called it ‘’bullying and blackmailing, unparalleled in the history of democracy’’. Politics does not go beyond immediate objectives and parties have only selective memories. But what is wrong, when a party is in government, does not become right when it is in the opposition.

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