It is a curious feature of Indian democracy that sometimes a thing desirable pans out in a manner that it begins to look unhealthy. When the Congress, after its successive electoral debacles, was subdued in the previous two sessions of Parliament, it seemed to be the party that was so crushed under the weight of its defeats that it had lost steam and become deflated. This was undoubtedly an unfortunate thing.
But, unfortunately again, the Congress’s re-discovery of its original self in the budget session will not be a rejuvenating factor. Apart from the passage of the insurance Bill, this session of Parliament is likely to be a forgotten chapter. When legislators run out of ideas and there is not much discussion taking place, the fight spills over to the streets, as has happened. The ‘espionage’ issue about some details being sought about Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi—though done in an improper manner—was a minor one, for which the Congress needn’t have been so sensitive. Also the Congress seems to have walked into the shoes of the BJP, which, when in the Opposition, had once decided to boycott a minister of the UPA government. Three key pieces of legislation — land acquisition, coal, and mines and minerals — received assent in the Lok Sabha but failed to rustle up the numbers in the Upper House. Most likely the ordinances concerned will be re-promulgated, again leading to charges of an ‘ordinance raj’, about which President Pranab Mukherjee gave a timely caveat.
This has been one aspect of the dismal show. To make things worse, this session saw an ugly spat between a woman minister and an Opposition MP. While his remark may have been well-intentioned, i.e. criticising people’s obsession with fair complexion, the MP should have realised that such statements concerning women, region and community are offensive and should not have been made in the first place. Neither should an execrable statement like ‘I know who you are’, which the MP made to the minister.
Parliament is a microcosm of a segment of a nation’s political behaviour, in the way assembles, municipalities, zilla parishads or gram panchayats are. But Parliament also has the responsibility to lead the rest and not be the prisoner of the people it represents. It is forever an institution in progress, just as the laws it makes are not stagnant but are amended to suit society’s changing needs. Our parliamentarians, who have not been always up to the mark, would do well to remember that.