Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Democracy under duress

After the commencement of the Monsoon Session on July 18, both the Houses of the Parliament are yet to transact any significant business. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are witnessing continuous adjournments since the monsoon session began. Proceedings of the Monsoon Session were yet again marred by Opposition protests over price rise, GST on daily essentials and inflation leading to adjournment of both the Houses within minutes of start. Successive days of the current session in which both the Houses were adjourned minutes after assembling without any productivity. As Opposition parties scaled attack at the Modi government over rising prices, GST on daily essentials and the misuse of central agencies, parliamentary minister Piyush Goyal and minister of women and child development Smriti Irani refuted the opposition’s charge that the government is running away from a debate and attacked the Congress, the largest opposition party. The opposition has demanded the rollback of five per cent GST on pre-packaged and labelled food items such as cereals, pulses and flour weighing less than 25 kg. For a commodity measured in litres like curd and ‘lassi, the limit is 25 litres. The Opposition has accused the government of running away from a debate on key issues, which they claim, shows the “obstinacy” of the Modi government. With the Opposition refusing to budge from their stand, the government on Wednesday said it is ready for a debate in Parliament on price rise once Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recovers from COVID-19. Three Opposition members on Friday walked out of a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on defence when their demand for discussing the Agnipath scheme was turned down. The members were K.C. Venugopal and Uttam Kumar Reddy of the Congress and Danish Ali of the BSP.Rejecting their demand, committee chairman Jual Oram of the BJP said nothing outside the fixed agenda would be taken up. The three members pointed out that the scheme was discussed at the consultative committee meeting and defence minister Rajnath Singh and the three chiefs of the armed services had made a presentation before it. They requested the chairman to list the scheme for discussion at the next meeting but he rejected the demand, arguing that they can discuss the issue in Parliament. Amid the logjam in Parliament, the Congress on Thursday said the Opposition wants Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to function but its only demand is that the first debate this session should be on price rise and levying of GST on certain food items of daily use. The regularity in which Parliament has been disrupted is unconstitutional and calls for a remedy so that the highest forum of the people’s representative is not victimised for political mileage. The BJP did it when it was the main opposition during the UPA-I and UPA-II days. Today the opposition Congress is also resorting to the same tactics which it disdained while it was in power. However, there is also a difference during the UPA-I and UPA-II period when the ruling government had faced flak from within and outside parliament. To their credit, the UPA governments did not run away from debate and had faced constant flak . Today, when the government refuses to entertain demands from opposition it projects itself poor light despite enjoying brute majority and this does not augur well for the well being of constitutional democracy.

Most Read