Even as President Pranab Mukherjee targetted the opposition for not letting Parliament function, the ruling BJP’s Margdarshak and former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani minced no words in holding the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Parliamentary Affairs minister responsible for the continuing logjam.
While the First Citizen observed disruptions amounted to “”gagging the majority”” as it is only the “”minority that disrupts”” and the Chair has no option but to adjourn proceedings.””
In sheer desperation the President appealed to Parliamentarians “”for God’s sake do your job.”” Disturbed with Parliament being held to ransom since Prime Minister Narendra Modi dramatically announced to the nation on November eighth evening about demonetisation being enforced in the country to curb black money along with fighting the menace of terrorism and counterfeit currency, Advani found the disturbances in the Lok Sabha disgraceful and wanted to know who should be held responsible for the disturbances.
This shocked the BJP MPs with Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar explaining to Advani that the opposition was responsible for the breakdown. In all this as the House was adjourned on Thursday, the senior Lotus party stalwart was heard telling that the Lok Sabha should have been adjourned sine die.
Subsequently sources clarified that Advani did not find fault with the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan or the Narendra Modi government. However, the Modi government’s failure in consulting the opposition and seeking their cooperation and participation in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha leaves much to be desired as the crucial GST bill is to be passed for its implementation next year. The BJP-led NDA faces the handicap of being in a minority in the Rajya Sabha.
The combined opposition has been demanding the presence of the Prime Minister during the discussion on the serious consequences arising from demonetisation which has adversely affected farmers, the poor and the daily wage earner.
The BJP-led NDA has been saying let the discussions begin and Modi will be present along with intervening in the debate. It is appalling that more than 70 persons have died standing in long winding queques to withdraw their own money from banks in various parts of the country. In the last 30 days the situation appears to have improved just marginally but the widespread pain of withdrawing money from banks and empty ATMs remains a nightmare.
On his part the Prime Minister has urged the suffering people to bear with him for 50 days before the glitches are ironed out. He assured that the demonetisation will bring about a marked change for the better in the country. This deadline expires on December 28 though at this moment there are no signs or indications of improvement taking place any time soon.
The Congress has said that the Modi government should heed Advani’s advice as the opposition is refusing to budge from its stand that the discussion should be under Rule 184 which entails voting. Simultaneously, another senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar regretted there has been continuous degradation of public life and the team leader is no longer inspiring respect.
The opposition observed protest day against demonetisation in front of the Mahatama Gandhi’s statue inside Parliament house on Thursday while Modi defended his campaign on twitter. The Speaker has decided to hold the discussion on demonetisation under Rule 193 where voting is not required.
With barely a week left for the winter session of Parliament to adjourn sine die, the prospects of getting crucial bills passed has failed to materialise thus far. Advani’s message is loud and clear. It is the responsibility of the ruling party to run Parliament smoothly by following democratic norms. Noise is not the substitution for debate. By running away from debate the opposition has perhaps played into the hands of the Modi government.There are no rules or electoral penalties for penalising MPs for their non-performance in Parliament.
It may be recalled that President Mukherjee in his own unobtrusive manner had underlined the need for a strong government at the centre in his Independence day eve address to the nation in 2914. This had become necessary for the economic development and stability of the country.
After the April-May general elections that same year, the BJP won a comfortable majority on its own for the first time in the Lok Sabha. With its allies the NDA crossed the rubicon of 300 and finished with a creditable tally of 340 out of 543 seats in the House of the People.
However, the First Citizen expressed serious concern with attacks on minorities along with Churches being vandalised in the national capital in September-October last year. There was the pre-meditated murder of 50-year-old Akhlaque Mohammad in Dadri near delhi.
On no less than five occasions in a five week span in September-October last year, President Mukherjee cautioned the Modi government to rein in unruly elements in pursuit of the Hindutva agenda of the RSS, the ideologue of the BJP, having the portends of whipping up a communal frenzy adversely affecting the plurality of the country. The country’s strength lay in its unity in diversity, he added.
(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)”