If there is something that brings us some cheer this Independence Day, it is the show of political accommodation that we saw in the monsoon session of Parliament. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed 15 and 14 bills respectively, among them some which had been contentious like the Goods and Services Tax one. Among other bills which went through were those that pertained to compensatory afforestation, labour reforms and the mental health. That this happened at a time when the Opposition started off by training all its guns on the government on the Dalit and Kashmir issues is nothing short of remarkable.
The Congress, rising to the occasion and behaving like a true opposition party decided, as one its leaders said, to choose the path of debate rather than obstruction. Clearly, all parties read the signals that people were fed up with time and money being frittered away on counterproductive political fights even as major legislation awaited passage. The government had in the past shown an odd reluctance to take the opposition into confidence on crucial legislation, which led to a virtual gridlock in Parliament. For days on end, in earlier sessions, we saw the opposition rushing into the well of the Houses or staging walkouts. The earlier practice of deft political management seemed to have been thrown to the wind. But fortunately, both the government and opposition today seem to display a welcome accommodation of the other’s point of view.
The real sticking point in the just-concluded session was Kashmir and while there were furious allegations thrown back and forth, the government made every effort to get the Opposition on the same page on this as well as the Dalit issue. And while some of the government’s claims on Dalits did not hold water at all and it engaged in futile measures like deploying ministers to speak on the NDA’s positive track record on Dalits, lines of communication with the opposition were kept open. This is the way it should be. Any issue, howsoever contentious, should be debated in the Houses by the elected representatives. In the past, the performance of some of our MPs and ministers in Parliament had led to much disillusionment about the political class as a whole. This is dangerous for democracy. People expect the people they send to parliament to work for the greater good and to improve their quality of life. The productive monsoon session shows that when our politicians put their minds to it, they are capable of rising above partisan politics and working together on issues of national importance. If this healthy development is nurtured and built on in the next session of Parliament, we will really be on the path to better and more inclusive governance.