This article is addressed to all defenders of the faith who are constantly haranguing BJP to stop disrupting Parliament and save Indian democracy. Public memory is short, media’s shorter. A section of the media also suffers from selective amnesia.The Vajpayee-Ied government was the first non-Congress government which governed India for over six years. It won an election in 1999, to return to power. It did suffer the fate of all earlier non-Congress governments in 1998, but acquired stability in its next term.
Its success led many to believe that Congress was not going to return to power any time soon. The resulting frustration in the Congress led to a complete change in its parliamentary behaviour. One has merely to look at the record of the thirteenth Lok Sabha to realise how often the Congress resorted to disruption and how flimsy were the grounds of those disruptions. Let me chronicle a few just to set the record straight and refresh the memory of the defenders of the faith.
If frequent adjournment of the Lok Sabha due to interruptions and disorderly scenes resulted in the loss of time of 10.66% during the Twelfth Lok Sabha, it increased to 19% during the Thirteenth Lok Sabha.
In February 2000, a circular issued by the Gujarat government, allowing its employees to take part in the activities of the RSS paralysed the business of Lok Sabha for at least 10 days. In December 2000, the House was paralysed once again for eight days when CBI filed a chargesheet against three Union ministers in the Babri Masjid case.
A major part of the budget session of 2001 was lost because of the Tehelka sting operation. The same thing happened when the Comptroller and Auditor-General report on the purchase of coffins for the armed forces was presented to Parliament. Parliament was disrupted and George Fernandes was boycotted by the Congress in Parliament. He was described as a Kafan Chor.
When the US forces invaded Iraq in early 2003, despite the fact that the prime minister himself made a statement expressing strong opposition to any military action in Iraq, the Congress insisted on Parliament passing a resolution condemning the US action. They disrupted the proceedings of Parliament again for many days until finally the great democrat Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee instructed us to work out a compromise which we did.
Only then was Parliament allowed to function. Compare Sonia Gandhi’s belligerence today to the statesmanship of Vajpayee then. The examples of unprecedented corruption in recent years have been brought in the public domain by none other than a constitutional body like CAG. This has made the prime minister depart from established practice and make a statement in Parliament on August 27, 2012, criticising CAG. An extraordinary statement indeed by a person who has spent all his life as an economic administrator and should know more than anyone else about the role and responsibility of CAG.
The defenders of the faith are quiet on this point. They never tire of reminding us that according to our parliamentary procedure reports of CAG are automatically referred to the PAC and are examined by the PAC. This is absolutely correct. So, the report of the CAG on the 2G scam came to the PAC. Indeed, this was exactly the argument given by the government to reject our demand for a JPC.
The prime minister repeatedly expressed his faith in the PAC and its chairman. He even offered to appear before the PAC personally, knowing fully well that the PAC cannot call ministers; an offer which he has not found fit to repeat for JPC.
In fact, JPC is stalemated on the issue of summoning the prime minister and the finance minister as witnesses which BJP members are demanding and the ruling party members are opposing stoutly. But let us return to the theme of the PAC. PAC spent eight months deliberating on the 2G scam.
It examined 22 witnesses during this period but when the time came to examine the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the PM and the then Solicitor-General, Attorney General Vahanvati, the ruling party members disrupted the proceedings and did not allow the examination of these witnesses. The defenders of the faith kept quiet. Subsequently, the secretariat of the PAC prepared the report as is the practice in all Parliamentary Committees.
When the report was presented to the committee, the ruling party members indulged in rowdy behaviour to disrupt the meeting of the PAC. In my long parliamentary career, I have never seen such behaviour in any committee. When the chairman of the PAC adjourned the meeting because of this disruption, a ruling party member even occupied his chair and conducted mock proceedings to reject the report. They even conducted a press conference and abused the chairman.
All this was done under the direction of the senior-most ministers of the government. The defenders of the faith kept quiet. Parliament of India let it pass. The draft report of the JPC was effectively buried. An attempt is being made to repeat the same thing even in the JPC. The message is loud and clear, “we shall indulge in corruption with impunity”.
The fact of the matter is that anyone who dares to enquire into the misdeeds of this government, whether it be CAG, PAC, JPC, or any other constitutional body, will be rubbished by the UPA government on the strength of its numbers. Truth will be suppressed, their sins will be swept under the carpet and the stale excuse on every occasion will be that they were only following NDA policies or that BJP is also equally guilty.
The tragedy is that with the help of a section of the media, they sometimes succeed in their propaganda. When Congress disrupts Parliament, it is performing a sacred national duty. When we do so, we are committing a grave crime. When Sonia Gandhi beckons her members to attack LK Advani, it is an act of courage and leadership. When the prime minister criticises CAG, he is being bold. My appeal to the defenders of the faith is to refresh your memory, go back a little into the past, do a little research and then defend the faith.