House bypassed

Parliament has again fallen victim to the intransigence of both the government and the opposition and their refusal to respect and act by the rules of the democratic system. The early termination of the budget session, which was adjourned sine die two days ahead of schedule, is only showing the deep fault lines which are developing in the system.

The government can claim that it found no point in continuing the session which was being blocked every day by the opposition, especially the principal opposition party. The opposition seeks to justify its obstruction on the ground that the government is insensitive and lacked the basic standards of propriety. The demand for resignation of ministers caught acting wrongly or facing credible charges of corruption is understandable. But to block the functioning of Parliament every day on that ground is wrong.

The budget session went the way of the most futile sessions of recent past. The general budget got very scanty attention and was passed because there would  otherwise have been a constitutional crisis. Hardly any legislative work was done though there was much on schedule. Parliament has hardly functioned in the last three years. An entire session was lost in 2010 over the demand for setting up a JPC to look into the 2G scandal. Since then various issues like CAG reports, policies like FDI in retail and  price rise have caused prolonged suspension of parliamentary work.

All these issues are important but what was lost sight of was the truth that they were to be discussed and debated in Parliament and not used as excuses to block its functioning. It  might be difficult to remember even a single day when the proceedings were conducted without rancour even on days when the houses of Parliament functioned.

The government should be blamed for not abiding by the accepted norms of conduct for ministers and not accepting even the reasonable demands of the opposition. The opposition is guilty of stalling Parliament even on the slightest issue. Both sides have to realise that Parliament is not the forum for political posturing and confrontation. Its basic purpose is legislation, debate and consultation which are the life breath of democracy. But it has been consistently been unable to discharge its functions and been degraded badly. State Assemblies had long ago lost their place as legitimate forums of people. Parliament is now going their way. That is dangerous for democracy. 

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