Parliament… without a bowler

   By Vijay Darda | 25-12-2023

In a democratic process, it is difficult to imagine Parliament functioning without Opposition

Vijay Darda

When six crucial Bills were passed in the last week of the Winter Session of the Parliament in its new building, several Opposition MPs had been suspended from the House. Both the ruling party and the Opposition have their own justifications. The Opposition is accusing the government of resorting to arbitrariness and the ruling party is saying that the former has become anarchic! This is for the first time in the history of the Indian republic that 146 MPs were suspended from Parliament during a session. Among them are 100 MPs from Lok Sabha and 46 from Rajya Sabha. Earlier in 1989, 63 Opposition MPs were suspended from Lok Sabha as they were demanding tabling of the Indira Gandhi assassination probe report in the House.

This time, the MPs were demanding a statement from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister on the Parliament security breach. The ruling party objected to it saying that since the investigation is underway, why demand a statement? This caused a furore in the House with the situation going from bad to worse triggering a series of suspensions. Someone remarked that the government is acting like a batsman who wants to score a century by batting without a bowler and a fielder. I have been a member of Parliament for 18 years and witnessed fierce debates on many issues. I have been witness to a lot of heated debate and uproar, but the suspension of MPs on such a large scale is really surprising. Is it possible to imagine Parliament without Opposition? Absolutely not, because Opposition is an important arm of democracy. Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, ruled with full authority. The Opposition was very weak then, but how important he considered the Opposition can be gauged from the fact that he wanted his fierce critics like Ram Manohar Lohia and Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be there in the House at all times.

The BJP in power today has been in the Opposition for a long time. It too adopted a very tough stand at times to raise the voice of the people. It used to create a storm over allegations of scams. Besides the Commonwealth Games, 2G, coal and Mumbai Adarsh Society scams, the BJP had also taken a strong stand on several relatively local issues. The issue of Aadhaar, which has become everyone’s magic wand today, could have been resolved in the Standing Committee at that time, but it became the subject of heated debate in the Parliament. The debate on Anna Hazare’s Lokpal movement continued throughout the night. When the then Union home minister Shivraj Patil arrived late for the meeting called in the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks, it was alleged that he was busy changing his suit. It caused an unprecedented uproar! I remember that Opposition MPs used to enter the well many times but never before were so many of them suspended!

It is the duty of the Opposition members to raise their voice; to demonstrate in the temple of democracy how the government is performing! The Opposition is in an attacking position in every country. In Britain, America and France, the opposition is even more aggressive. However, the Opposition should also realise its responsibility. In a democratic governance system, both the ruling party and the Opposition should be viewed from the same perspective because both are working for the common man. In a democracy, how will the vehicle move if all four wheels do not work properly? Remember, the more the country progresses, the more the enemies will attack! We have to fight unitedly.

In the democratic process, the role of political parties keeps changing in keeping with the public sentiments. There was a time when people staunchly believed in Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and then Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Today, there is immense faith in PM Modi. We do not have the provision for direct election, but the existing provision does have a place for a face of the leader and that face is PM Modi today. Amit Shah’s image is also strong in the minds of people following the abrogation of Article 370 and his strong stance on several other issues. What I mean is that democracy endures regardless of who is in power. This is something we should keep in mind at all times. At the same time, I would like to point out that while mimicking the Vice President is not a crime, it does not suit the members of Parliament. Parliament is not a place for mimicry. It is our responsibility to respect those who hold constitutional posts as well as the elected representatives.

However, the question as to how business would be transacted if the MPs are expelled from Parliament still remains unanswered. Even if they are few, they should be listened to. RSP MP from Kerala N K Premachandran is the only MP of his party but when he rises to speak, everyone wants to listen to him. Everyone wanted to listen to former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, former MP Sitaram Yechury or D Raja. Tiruchi Siva of the DMK is another such member of Rajya Sabha. Therefore, numerical strength should never be used as a weapon. I have said it before, I am saying it today and I will say it always that anything should not be stretched to their limits. Giving an impression to the Opposition that they are being treated like enemies is not good for democracy. The parliamentary affairs ministry should not have allowed the situation to escalate to this point.Remember, parliamentary democracy has its own traditions and values. Punishment should never cross the limit.

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