Suspension no remedy for logjam

The suspension of 25 Congress MPs by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for five days for ‘’persistent and wilful obstruction’’ of the House is unlikely to break the logjam in parliament. Instead, it will be seen by the main opposition party as another confrontationist measure as most of its members will be barred from attending the House.

Most other opposition parties, which had not supported the Congress demand and tactics in the House, have also found it difficult to support the Speaker’s action. Suspensions have not been commonly used in the House as a disciplinary and penal measure. It is an extreme step which is best avoided. The Congress has been blockading parliament ever since the current session started, demanding the resignation of the external affairs minister and the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Speaker had not taken any initiative on her own to resolve the problem. Instead, by employing the heavy-handed method of suspension, she has invited the charge of bringing the Gujarat model to the Lok Sabha. Suspension of members is frequent in the Gujarat assembly.

Preventing parliament from functioning by disruption is wrong. It is a forum for debate, discussion and legislation and there cannot be any reason to barrack it. So, the Congress has no sound justification for its stalling tactics. But the blame for the situation should be shared by the government also. It has not been responsive to the Congress demand for action on the scandals it highlighted and has even been dismissive about it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not made any statement on the issues and has not tried to reach out to the opposition over them. Ensuring the smooth working of parliament and facilitating the discharge its legislative business is mainly the duty of the government. In the meetings it held with the Opposition it did not yield any ground and seemed to lack in sincerity of purpose. It seemed that the meetings were held to show to the people that the opposition was unyielding and solely responsible for the paralysis of parliament.

It should also be noted that the BJP is reaping the wind it had sown when the UPA was in power. It had then blocked parliament continuously for many sessions on different issues. It is unfortunate that the highest forum of the people has become dysfunctional and has fallen a victim to the unyielding political positions of parties. The style and aim of parliament’s functioning should be discussion and reconciliation, not confrontation.  The continuing paralysis will result in people losing their faith in the institution and in democracy.

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