The politics of disruption
Even when MPs returned on Wednesday from their ill-deserved break, and before the two Houses were called to order, the prevailing pre-election political atmosphere in the country was indication enough that we shouldn’t expect much from the proceedings of Parliament until the next Lok Sabha is elected.
The session itself could not be avoided, of course. Parliamentary sanction, through a vote-on-account, has to be obtained to run the government beyond March and until the new government takes charge after the Lok Sabha poll and presents the next Budget.
The UPA-2 leadership would have doubtless realised that placing substantive legislative measures on the agenda in the waiting period before the vote-on-account is passed was unrealistic. Why do it then? Without question, to win a political point — to strongly suggest, by pointing to a legislative agenda that just sits on the table without discussion, that an obstructionist Opposition was coming in the way of advance.
We have no idea what the electorate would think of leaving crucial legislation to the end. The government could legitimately argue, of course, that Parliament has been plodding away without much purpose for over two years as session after session was washed away in the din, and even if important bills such as these were brought earlier, there was good chance that disruptions would not permit their passage.
The Opposition, for its part, could argue with some justification that the Treasury benches themselves frequently breached the peace in Parliament with sections of it strongly opposing the government’s move to create the new state of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, even making common cause with select Opposition parties to make their point. Then it’s been a mixed bag, really, and public interest has suffered as a result.
Congress vice-president and chief election manager Rahul Gandhi has been predicating the success of the six anti-corruption bills on the stand, which in his view are a necessary accompaniment to the recently passed Lokpal law (which incidentally Anna Hazare approves of but Arvind Kejriwal dismisses as “Jokepal”), on obtaining support for these measures from the Opposition. He would have known the Opposition parties had no intention of letting the Congress walk away with the credit of piloting anti-graft measures. Thus, the shadow-boxing continues.
The Telangana issue is reaching boiling point as climax nears, and this is reflected in Parliament. How the Manmohan Singh government finesses the challenge mounted by the Seemandhra group will be watched with interest. Getting Telangana on the road before the election was perhaps the government’s real reason for holding the extended session. The BJP is committed to Telangana but would be happy to see the Congress bid fail before the polls. There is too much politics in the air.