No-trust motions: Onus on Speaker

No-trust motions: Onus on Speaker

The continued stalling of no-confidence motions against the NDA government in the  Lok  Sabha is a flagrant violation of the best values and traditions of parliamentary democracy. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House every day in the last fortnight without taking up any of the no-confidence motions moved by Opposition parties, including the Congress, the CPM, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress. According to the rules, a no-confidence motion should get top priority and override all other business of the House. The motions were moved by the required number of members. Yet, every day, the Speaker gave the  excuse that she could not take up the motion as the House was not in order. Only members of the AIADMK and the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) were disrupting the proceedings, but the Speaker pleaded helplessness and went in for adjournments.

One may wonder whether the Speaker's conduct is partisan and unfair. She has the responsibility to maintain order in the House and has the powers and means to ensure this. She can get the unruly members physically removed as they have been continuously filibustering and barracking the House. The disorder in the House did not prevent her from facilitating the passage of the Finance Bill through guillotining it. When the House reconvenes  on Monday, she must act to fulfil her responsibility, bring all parties and their members together and ensure that order prevails in the House and the priority motion of no-trust is taken up without wasting any further time. The Speaker represents the entire House and not just the Treasury benches. Most Speakers in the past have left a great record, though some have taken questionable decisions.  The government, for its part, should show that it respects the norms of parliamentary democracy by supporting the Speaker and assisting her in ensuring that the no-trust motions are taken up.

The situation may get worse, and even dangerous, with the suspicion being aired that the disruption may be deliberate and orchestrated to prevent the no-trust motions from being taken up. If the House is allowed to function and the motions taken up, the government will have a lot to answer, on issues relating to the Punjab National Bank fraud and the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, which will surely be raised during the debate.

The BJP may not be sure whether all its allies would stand by it. The TDP has walked out of the NDA, and the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are estranged. A concerted Opposition attack in such a situation may have made the government uncomfortable. But that is no reason to avoid facing a motion through dubious tactics. By creating such a situation, a minority government or one that has lost its majority can manoeuvre to stay in power with the help of the Speaker and some members. The basic idea of a government's accountability to Parliament is under threat.  

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