It’s all about numbers. That’s what Parliament has been reduced to. We are already into the fourth day of the winter session and the honourable members are yet to do anything meaningful. Going by the trend since 2010, it’s nothing unusual. It’s the great Indian parliamentary democracy at work. Well, it’s pathetic, to say the least.
The Congress-led UPA has been busy mustering numbers to ward off embarrassment in case it is forced to face voting after debate on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail.
A loss in voting won’t bring the government down but it would leave its moral authority to rule the country under question. The BJP-led NDA would not let the opportunity go. Many other parties have a score to settle with the UPA. So voting and numbers it has to be.
The issue under debate is in no way going to impact on the world around us. And the states have an option not to go for FDI in retail. The government has an option to keep it out of Parliament since it can make the move operational through an executive order. Still, this is an issue that has kept Parliament idle for four days while 25 important bills are waiting for the attention of the members.
While on numbers, here’s something worth pondering. Each minute during a Parliament session costs the state exchequer Rs 2.5 lakh. That puts the per day loss from the non-functioning Parliament at a whopping Rs 12 crore. Thus the tax-paying public has already paid Rs 48 crore for the frivolous pre-occupation of their leaders. Take into account the total time lost from 2010 and the public money wasted. It could in the size of a major scandal.
For the record, Lok Sabha wasted 77 percent of its time during the monsoon session and Rajya Sabha 72 hours. The productivity of the budget session was equally dismal. The government had targeted to clear 32 bills in the monsoon session, only four were passed. We have not yet discussed the disruptions in 2011, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was at its peak. The 15th Lok Sabha has lost over 500 hours so far.
Of course, our leaders try to make us believe that all this is for the common man and for the good of the country. If they did not put up a fight in Parliament, the government would have its way and pass many anti-people bills. Why cannot they just have a no-confidence vote and get done? This would at least ensure that the government has numbers and thus in a legitimate position to take decisions.
The antics of our leaders are certainly going too far. It has to be stopped. Parliament cannot be held hostage to narrow political point-scoring for ever. If they are not prepared to discuss and debate issues, there is no point them being members. They are in reality working against the interest of the people they represent while by professing to be working for them. But who will make them work?
There’s no guarantee that if the government manages to win the numbers test there will be peace. The opposition will keep raking up new issues - read, new excuses - to stall the House proceedings. The Congress, when out of power, will resort to the same technique to take on the government in power then. In fact, it is the Congress which had started this trend. Now stalling the House has become routine. How far can this be allowed to go on?
We are in era of coalition governments and the nature of politics ensures that numbers will always be a problem for the ruling dispensation. Add to that the fierce adversarial politics in vogue. It is necessary that we have rules in place to ensure stability. It is obvious that the political class won’t frame rules to restrain itself. So who will do that?
The civil society needs to intervene. Anna Hazare, are you around?