Parliament pandemonium

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The Pioneer, January 07, 2019

The 16th Lok Sabha will be dissolved in a couple of months. It will not be remembered as a hard-working House

When the 16th Lok Sabha was sworn in under just five years ago, the India electorate had delivered a stunning majority to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Opposition parties were shattered with the principal one, the Indian National Congress, reduced to just 44 seats. However, five years later, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, must be wishing he could rewind back to that time when he and his party were still on the ascendancy and nobody could stop them. Because when it comes to getting crucial legislations passed, Parliament has been in utter mess for the past few years. Indeed, it has been a mess going back to the previous Government. India has been in almost total legislative lockdown with Parliamentary debates few and far in between and the Prime Minister himself barely attends the House.

One cannot ignore the elephant in the room — that being the Rajya Sabha, many of this Government’s landmark legislative ideas were thwarted by the Opposition in the Upper House through a combination of obduracy and sheer numbers. It should also be highlighted that the extremely aggressive attitude of several Ministers of the Modi’s Cabinet who, instead of helping build a consensus, have at all opportunities played a blame-game and whataboutery. And the media has played its part in this failure. In fact, Modi and his Cabinet’s dismal management of Parliament during the term of this Lok Sabha should go down as his greatest failure. It was almost as if no attempts were made to reach out to the members of the Opposition, even for crucial Bills that should have seen bipartisan support, such as the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, which have fallen between the cracks. This is likely the final full Session of the House which might meet once again to pass an interim Budget before the 17th Lok Sabha gets sworn in. It is also almost certain, barring a dramatic change in the political pendulum, that India’s next Government will be headed by a coalition, which might make managing the Cabinet and egos between political leaders impossible alongside the ever-present threat of wanton corruption. But it should also mean that legislative business should be a bit easier. Who will lead that coalition in the next Lok Sabha, of course, is a question that only the Indian electorate and no political commentator or opinion poll can answer. And the Indian electorate should now expect their politicians to work and pass some crucial legislative decisions that have been pending for years on end. If not, it will increasingly appear that India, like several other major nations in the world such as the United Kingdom and United States, will suffer from the curse of being a democracy where politicians increasingly become more obstinate besides being showmen and showwomen on television and social media rather than work towards the common good. And part of that would be to work together, as Indians and for Indians. We are all sick of the hashtags on social media. The 17th Lok Sabha will have to ensure we move away from that.

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