The winter session of Parliament will end on Monday with the deadlock over the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum scam still unresolved. The prospect of a mid-term poll sometime next year has added to the air of uncertainty.
It is still not clear why the government and the opposition parties have not reached a breakthrough on the constitution of a JPC. But, it is obvious that both sides are playing politics. The manner in which an impasse has been created indicates how some forces on both sides are working to destabilise the government.
It is significant that in the last one month, two top Congress leaders — Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi — have thrown their full weight behind the prime minister despite stories which had earlier been doing the rounds about a disconnect between the party and the government. The two Congress leaders have perhaps detected a conspiracy and have concluded that Manmohan Singh is a better bet than anybody else in the UPA, at least for the time being.
But the crisis refuses to go away. Senior leaders in the UPA and in the NDA have started talking about the possibility of a mid-term poll. However, why would any government which came to power a year-and-a-half ago want a snap poll knowing that its chances of coming back to power are slim?
The BJP/NDA had learnt this the hard way when they went in for elections six months before schedule in 2004. It is unlikely that the Congress will have an early poll just because an impasse in Parliament continues. The party had increased its seats from 145 in 2004 to 206 in 2009 and many of its stalwarts including some who may be hinting at an early poll will find it difficult to return to the Lok Sabha.
There is an argument that since most MPs do not want polls, a threat of elections will force them to return to Parliament. But it is also clear that Lok Sabha MPs who are going to be affected do not decide when mid-term polls are to be held. Both in the Congress and the BJP, there are a number of Rajya Sabha MPs who wield tremendous influence over their party heads. These MPs will get the decisions taken from a secure platform since they do not have to face the people.
The JPC demand has united the opposition parties and even some constituents of the UPA like the Trinamool Congress and the DMK are not averse to such a demand. The impotence of Parliament seen together with allegations of corruption or impropriety in the judiciary, bureaucracy and in the fourth estate and the amplified role of the corporate sector following evidence of infiltration by so-called lobbyists (fixers is a better word) in our various institutions have left our people demoralised.
It is time for all our institutions to introspect and ensure that transparency and probity in public life are sacrosanct. Our Constitution's fathers could not have imagined that allegations of corruption would shame our institutions and that MPs would not rise above narrow interests.
The deadlock cannot be allowed to persist. The Prime Minister must take centre-stage to get matters under control. If the impasse remains unresolved, it is his chair which will fall first. Even the talk of a snap poll is to ensure his ouster. Between us.