Independence Day means many things to many people, but the common thread is that it is a testimony to the strength of our democracy. But those who have been following the activities in Parliament before this session ended on Thursday would be hard put to understand how the repository of democracy, our Parliament, could witness such deep divisions. Even veteran NCP leader Sharad Pawar was moved to say that he had never witnessed such bitterness in the House before. A Bhutanese delegation which came to observe the parliamentary proceedings must have been left stunned at the confrontational manner in which many of our MPs conducted themselves.
What dominated this monsoon session as in others before were not debates and discussions on policy issues but personal attacks. This level of polarisation signals a new low in our political discourse. Much has to do with the skewed arithmetic of Parliament where the government with a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha faces the exact opposite in the Rajya Sabha. The government must take its share of the blame for letting things reach such a pass. It chose to refrain from explaining the infractions of a senior minister in a case involving a disgraced IPL czar, it chose to not explain an examination and recruitment scandal in Madhya Pradesh, where a huge number of witnesses have died, it has chosen to support the Rajasthan chief minister, whose involvement with the same IPL czar has raised doubts of financial impropriety among other things. But, while the Opposition has every right to protest, it too should have put some things above partisan politics and considered the national interest.
Whoever is to blame more, this has been a saga of missed opportunities. There could have been a more nuanced debate on the GST bill, there definitely should have been much more time devoted to the land Bill and the issue of terrorism was one of vital national security. These bills all impact the economic growth yet they were given short shrift. What we saw seemed to be a competitive blame game, with both the government and Opposition trying to outdo each other in raking up scandals past and present. The situation has become so fraught that many top industrialists have warned that this sort of paralysis can erode faith in Parliament.
For the first time ever, barricades have had to be erected around the speaker’s table to prevent agitating MPs from rushing to that area. All parties involved have to work out some means whereby business can be transacted and differences debated in a civil manner. This is something our elected representatives should ponder as the nation observes a momentous occasion in our history.