Subversion of legislature

The manner in which the BJP has been crafting a majority for itself in state assemblies and in the Rajya Sabha by taking advantage of defections and resignations belies its claim of being a values-based party. With the party finding it difficult to pass bills in the Upper House where it is a few numbers short of a majority, its tactical thinking swung into action during the Budget session. Recently, four of the six Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs joined the BJP without attracting disqualification as the anti-defection law permits the merger of two-thirds or more lawmakers of one party with another party. When it is not possible to ensure mass defections to avoid the provisions of the anti-defection law, individual members do resign and change the composition of the House to create an artificial majority, as was done in Karnataka. The latest is the case of Sanjay Singh of Congress and Neeraj Shekar of Samajwadi Party who resigned from their Rajya Sabha seats to join the BJP.

The Rajya Sabha is the Council of States and its members, with the exception of those nominated by the President, are elected by MLAs of the respective states. With the defection of TDP members, a strange situation has arisen in which the BJP has four MPs from Andhra Pradesh though it has not won a single MLA in that state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team, who are bulldozing bills through the Rajya Sabha, would do well to remember the purpose of a bicameral legislature as envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. Rajya Sabha members are not directly elected by the people, allowing them to be able to discuss issues in a dispassionate manner without being swayed by emotions, or the need to win popular approval. The House of Elders is designed to be the philosopher and conscience-keeper of the nation, especially in its role to prevent hasty legislation. As its first Chairman S Radhakrishnan said, “Parliament is not only a legislative, but a deliberative body.” This very concept is now at risk.

The BJP has hit at the very root of the Constitution which deliberately envisages several checks and balances to prevent abuse of governmental power. As the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, Modi is expected to set healthy parliamentary traditions for the world to emulate. India will not become ‘Vishwaguru’ by subverting our own democracy.

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