If Rahul Gandhi wants a law on dissent, he should first let Parliament function normally

Rahul Gandhi has announced that he wishes to end “discrimination in colleges and universities” by bringing a law. Speaking during a students’ solidarity march at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday, the Gandhi scion said: “We need an anti-discrimination law enacted in all colleges and universities that stops any kind of prejudice and bigotry against the weaker section. We in Congress party are also mulling over it to get such a law enacted that stops the student oppression.”

And the Congress vice-president plans to bring the law by engaging in a dialogue with student protestors, with whom he “has made friends”.

If Rahul Gandhi wants a law on dissent, he should first let Parliament function normally

Rahul Gandhi addresses the students during a protest march in Jantar Mantar on Tuesday. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

To begin with, Rahul’s new-found wish should be taken as a healthy sign — because if such a law has to be enacted, the Parliament has to function normally to debate, discuss and pass it.

That is a welcome development given the fact that the last two sessions of the Parliament were washed away due to Congress’s strategy of disruption.

Is Rahul showing signs of a change of heart by arguing for yet another of his “rights” series of legislations?

If one looks at the fine print or his speech in totality, delivered to express solidarity with protestors on Rohith Vemula and JNU issue, the Congress vice-president is indicating that he has only hardened his position vis-a-vis Modi government and is gearing up to force another round of adjournments in Parliament, which has now become a routine than an exception.

Rahul’s six-minute speech was full of rhetoric against Modi government and the RSS, his every word indicative of the line he and his party are going to take in the Budget session.

Woh jo wahan (Hyderabad) dharna kar rahe hain unke saath meri dosti ban gayi hai…”

The Congress vice-president revealed that he “suggested” about “need for a law to end discrimination” when he had gone to Hyderabad to express solidarity with those protesting against university authorities and Modi government on Vemula’s suicide.

But Rahul, a third-term MP and someone who was very much a part of the Manmohan Singh government’s command centre for 10 years, should know that it is the government of the day which formulates a legislation, brings that up in Parliament for discussion and passage, subsequently sends that to the President for assent and for Gazette notification to enact it as law of the land.

So if the Gandhi scion is really serious about any such law, he should have been talking to the government — the Parliamentary Affairs minister, law minister, minister of the department concerned, leader of the House and with the Prime Minister, not with a group of protesting students in Hyderabad or elsewhere.

It is beneath the Congress dynasty heir, perhaps, to engage with ministers or tier-two, tier-three leaders other than the Prime Minister. And Narendra Modi wouldn’t give him the honour of engaging directly, at least till the time he elevates himself to the post of Congress president.

Rahul does, however, have an option of moving that bill in Parliament, which is perhaps being drafted on his suggestion by Ambedkar Students Association which draws its ideological strength from radical Left.

He can move it as a Private Member’s Bill in second half of on one of the Fridays of the Budget session or later, depending on his luck — it’s on basis of a lottery that an individual private members bill is taken up for consideration in either House of Parliament — and of course, his discretion to allow the Parliament to function during those hours.

But given the fact that Congress has a miniscule 44-member presence in the Lok Sabha, fate of that bill is anybody’s guess. But if Rahul chooses to do so, he will surely hit the headlines and gain a talking point.

Interestingly, Rahul began his speech by taking a potshot at the President for not including in his joint session of Parliament address any reference to Rohith Vemula or Hayrana Jat stir.

Mai soch raha tha( on President’s speech), sochte sochte baat samajh me aiye ki pure samay bite samay ki baat kar rahe hain. Yehi RSS ki soch hai bite samay ki baat karna...

Consider this — the Congress vice-president very well knows that the first session of every year begins with a mandatory President’s address where the government gives him a draft on its achievements and the preceding year and what it proposes to do in the year ahead.

Presidential speeches in long decades of Congress rules have been on same lines. No contentious issues are taken up and they are mostly boring to ordinary citizens.

So there is nothing special or objectionable in President Pranab Mukherjee’s address today, unless Rahul wants to initiate a debate on the format itself and wishes to propose a change in that.

Rahul’s out-of-the-box thinking is good but he should also be careful about bringing up the Jat quota stir in Haryana.

An audio clip has purportedly confirmed what was suspected since the beginning that Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had allegedly instigated not just the quota protests but his close supporters were doing every bit of mischief to fan violence.

PS: Arvind Kejriwal arrived at Jantar Mantar about an hour after Rahul Gandhi left and in his characteristic style took on PM Modi and the BJP.

He too talked about need for a new law to protect dissenting students and autonomy of universities. The question is — Is Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal moving closer or are these two competitors competing to take pole positions against Narendra Modi and BJP?

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2016 22:56:57 IST

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