Debate coalgate

High decibel slogans will not yield results.

Parliament is again witnessing the usual sorry spectacle of slogan shouting, barracking, disruptions and a final adjournment, casting doubts whether this short session will be any different from previous ones. For the second day running, the highest legislative forum was unable to function as the non-Left opposition demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the coal block allocation scam, as revealed in the  CAG report. The monsoon session had started on a disruptive note this month but there was a lull which has now proved to be deceptive.  From the signals coming from the NDA side which wants nothing less than the prime minister’s resignation and from the government side which clearly cannot accept it, it seems the coming days will also be lost.
The coal allocation scam, as reported by the CAG, is a tale of humungous corruption, rent-seeking and arbitrary favours  for which the Prime Minister cannot escape responsibility. He was in charge of the coal ministry when some of the  faulty allocations were made and so the responsibility is more than notional and moral. A government tainted and scarred by a series of corruption scandals, including the 2G spectrum allocation issue, will be hard put to explain the implementation of a policy that caused much loss to the exchequer. The argument that the loss was presumptive and the CAG exceeded its brief will not wash.  But the opposition should ask questions, seek answers  that the nation wants to know and haul the government over the coals in Parliament.  High-decibel slogans and obstructions will not yield results and provide any solution.  They will only expose the most legitimate democratic forum as ineffective and as a hostage to politics.  

There is serious legislative business waiting for debate and passage  in Parliament, including the land acquisition bill, pension regulatory authority bill and a host of others which are important for the economy and the nation.  Legislation  is the most vital function of Parliament and it should not be thwarted by any means.  It is the credibility of democratic institutions that suffers when they are paralysed  and haemorrhaged out of normal functioning. Successive sessions have seen the demeaning and devaluation of Parliament, for which the ruling party and the opposition are responsible. The government has been weakened and may be bumbling,  and the opposition may want to make the best political gains. But both are accountable to Parliament and are relevant only if Parliament retains its value.

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