There were also crucial regional issues such as special status for Andhra Pradesh and the management of Cauvery waters.
The ruling BJP and the Opposition parties have disparate explanations why the Budget Session of Parliament, which ended on Friday, was a complete washout. The inevitability of this had become clear once the government was able to have the Union Budget for 2018-19 passed. The ruling side appeared to care for little else.
The government held the Opposition guilty for making noise and not let the two Houses run. But isn’t it the job of the Opposition to make a noise and force debate on key issues? Or, should we have a rubber-stamp Parliament?
The Opposition desired time to be allotted for their issues to be taken up. But the government didn’t care to engage with them, though this is the time-honoured tradition.
The subjects raised by the Opposition go to the heart of the matter as far as the governance of the country goes; to wit, farm distress, the pathetic banking sector and the massive PNB scam involving high-profile individuals considered close to the highest levels of the government, the destabilising effects on the economy of demonetisation and the hastily-devised implementation of the GST, the attacks on dalits across the country, the delicate situation in J&K, and the poor shape of neighbourhood diplomacy. There were also crucial regional issues such as special status for Andhra Pradesh and the management of Cauvery waters.
It is a pity that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan permitted opportunity for the Budget proposals for Rs 89 lakh crore to be passed by voice vote without discussion. She did not show concrete concern that the Lok Sabha was badly disturbed as the Opposition felt it was being disregarded by the government. Ms Mahajan had the powers to remedy this. The exalted position of the Speaker gave her the moral — and political — authority to advise the government to engage the Opposition in meaningful dialogue.
Not doing so produced a mockery of democracy. Taxes collected from the people will be spent by the government in an arbitrary manner — without discussion in Parliament (but technically with parliamentary approval!) as happens in a despotism or a one-party state, say North Korea or China.
Another grotesque example of the wilful perversion of the parliamentary system was that notices of no-confidence motion given by the YSR Congress, TDP and the Congress — backed by an array of Opposition parties — were simply disregarded. Instead of bringing order to the House for the motion to be taken up by using the ample powers at her command, the Speaker shrugged her shoulder, citing Opposition noise.
This has been a terrible time for our Parliament not because one or another issue could not be debated, but because depraved parliamentary practice was on view. BJP MPs’ propaganda that they’ll forgo their salary for the lost time does not alleviate anything. One of them, Subramanian Swamy, has rightly scoffed at the idea.