Imagine you’re a regular office worker who wakes up every day plotting how to disrupt everyone’s work at your office and to ensure that no meaningful work ever gets done. Chances are you won’t have a job for too long.
Yet, there’s one career option – politics — where you get rewarded for being disruptive in the most negative way possible. And our career politicians are milking it to perfection.
The BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde says his party will not allow parliamentary proceedings to take place today. Oh, there’s a reason for it, just as there’s always a reason, however frivolous: this time it’s about opposing the government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector.
Today’s planned disruption comes on top of the near-total shutdown of Parliament last week, over other issues of grave importance – in which the only way of marking your presence as an MP was evidently to ensure that no work gets done.
The Left parties, who are consummate artists in the politics of disrupting any semblance of constructive work, are taking it to the streets with their call for an all-India strike on 1 December.
For sure, all these disruptive leaders will claim they are only giving expression to people’s frustrations with a recently announced policy. And, yes, it’s also true that the Congress and its allies, which are today in government, have been equally disruptive when they were in the opposition.
But just as we feel we deserve a better government – one that is more responsive to people’s needs – we also deserve a better opposition, one that holds the government accountable to higher standards of governance, not just one that validates itself by the number of days on which it was able to shut down parliamentary proceedings.
These ceaseless rounds of the politics of shutdowns and reflexive, knee-jerk opposition to everything come with an enormous cost, which is being borne by the very same common folks these parties claim to represent.
The irony is that there are plenty of grounds on which the opposition parties can hold the government to account, given the past two-plus years of wholesale misgovernance. Their failure to do that, except by contributing to high-decibel hysterics, only reflects a colossal lack of political imagination.
There have been occasions when the government and the opposition responded to a higher calling when they were forced by grassroots-level pressure to behave themselves. For instance, during the extraordinary proceedings in parliament on 27 August this year, under pressure from the Anna Hazare-led movement, we saw some scintillating debates in parliament, with both the ruling and the opposition parties engaging in a freewheeling – and constructive – clash of ideas, and showed extraordinary unity of purpose.
Surely, it isn’t too much to expect our parliamentarians and mainstream parties to work together just a little more often, in the name of the people they claim to represent. Surely we deserve a better opposition, just as we deserve a better government…