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HindustanTimes Mon,28 Jul 2014
Keep the House in order
Chanakya, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 23, 2013
First Published: 20:58 IST(23/2/2013)
Last Updated: 01:14 IST(24/2/2013)

It is the sort of issue that would have resulted in a Parliamentary slugfest. But the terror attacks in Hyderabad were tackled with maturity and calm by the Opposition even though some of the rem-arks by the home minister on the issue would have made anyone see red.

There were some apprehensions before Parliament went into the new session. The Opposition seemed all set to push the government into a corner but it has begun by engaging with it and not going in for shouting matches and walk-outs. I can only hope that this trend will continue.

In fact, despite home minister Sushilkumar Shinde waffling on about the Hyderabad terror attacks and his statement that he had intelligence which was not specific, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha made it a point to say that the BJP did not want to assign blame and that everyone should fight terror together.

While it is too early to say, this does suggest that we are in for a productive session of Parliament as the prime minister had sought.

In fact, this session is the right platform to reassess whether our institutional responses to terror attacks need a thorough overhaul.

As of now, it would seem that we have a plethora of intelligence organisations but little coordination among them.

Instead of whistling in the dark, perhaps the home minister would like to tell the people what he proposes to put in place to at least minimise the possibility of such attacks in future.

Up ahead are explosive issues which could set the Yamuna on fire like the AgustaWestland deal. Apart from the fact that there was some nefarious activities at the crossroads, I would like to ask why India which is grappling to find money to finance ambitious social welfare schemes thought it fit to sign up for VVIP helicopters so that our elected worthies can literally float above the fray.

Defence deals in themselves are susceptible to corruption but I hope that there can be a way out through reasoned debate and discussion to get to the bottom of this mess.

This Parliament has a great deal of work to tackle. Already precious time has been lost in earlier sessions when the Opposition and the government were at loggerheads.

But today, the mood seems much more one of cooperation. All parties would really do well to be mindful of the fact that patience is running thin among people who have been buffeted by one crisis or other, be in law and order or price rises.

At last count there were 71 bills to be introduced in Parliament. Some of the more important ones are the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, Land Acquisition Bill, Whistle Blowers’ Protection Bill, Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 2011, National Food Security Bill, Educational Tribunals Bill, Bill to make provision for quota in promotions for SC, ST, Finance Bill, 2013, Women’s Reservation Bill, Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place Bill, Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill and the Right to Grievance Redress Bill.

Many of these will generate intense debate and discussion, and rightly so. But they are vital for governance which sadly, has been in short supply in recent times.

It is clear to me at first glance that political parties are acutely aware that they have entered the penultimate lap before the next general election.

This means that at least in enlightened self-interest they will get down to business. Of course, there are unfortunate scandals like the Suryanelli one which refuses to go away. A re-investigation which is being sought should lay that to rest one way or the other.

There is one thing that our political class should not forget. Not so long ago, they took a real pounding from civil society activists turned politicians like Arvind Kejriwal.

Faith in the very political system was at an all time low. But it would seem, at least to me, that the political class seems to have recovered.

This suggests that people are still willing to extend the long rope given to them just a little more.

A productive and calm Parliament session is the least that they owe to the people who have to wake up daily to some scam or the other or some horrific outrage like the one in Hyderabad.

It gives people an infinite sense of reassurance to see their elected representatives go about their business in a calm and collected manner.

I, for one, am hoping that this Parliament will see much greater inputs from our younger MPs. Many of them who have been given onerous ministerial portfolios have performed well.

Now is the time for them to really demonstrate their skills. Though I am the eternal optimist, I am not holding my breath just yet.

But so far, the whole tone and tenor of this budget session suggest that this will not be squandered like others before it were.

With time before the next election running out, it really is a make or break situation for all parties concerned and if that sentiment is what will make Parliament work, I am certainly not complaining.


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