The winter session of Parliament will go down as one of several dubious distinctions. First, Parliament had to be adjourned during question hour last Monday due to lack of quorum and because most of the members whose questions were listed were absent. But, more important, for the second time in this session the Prime Minister chose to go on a foreign visit, though it was fixed much earlier. This goes to show that the executive needs to review its future relationship with the legislature. Both the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of External Affairs officials must ensure that, in future, such foreign visits should not take place in mid-session unless they are unavoidable.
The Prime Minister was away for eight days to the US and the Caribbean in late November and will be in Russia on a three-day visit when the Liberhan Commission report is discussed in the Lok Sabha on Monday and Tuesday. And when he goes to Copenhagen for the climate change meet, this will be the third time he will be absent.
Manmohan Singh is a man of great integrity and intellect. But as the PM, he must be present when serious issues are discussed. The prices of essential commodities have gone through the roof and no amount of explanations regarding the rise in the sensex or projection of a higher growth rate can take away from the problems people are facing.
On the price issue, one would have expected that Singh, a top economist along with his aides such as Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his most experienced minister Pranab Mukherjee would be thinking of solutions. He must realise that within six months of his government taking over for the second tenure, its image is rapidly plummeting. The increase in prices of essential food items is bad news for the aam aadmi and this year alone, the hike has been phenomenal. Sugar has gone up from Rs 24 per kg to over Rs 40. Some of the pulses are more than Rs 100 per kg, atta and rice are also up and milk prices keep moving upward. The government has to step in.
The gigantic Madhu Koda scam, the National Thermal Power Corporation scandal and the suspected havala transactions of Emaar MGF all point a needle of suspicion to influential people in the government, and outside it. The Satyam controversy is still fresh in everyone’s mind. The Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the affairs of the Bellary brothers has not been ordered without reason.
The Opposition is in total disarray. The Left has suffered reverses in both Kerala and West Bengal, its bastions. The BJP is paralysed by the civil war within the Sangh parivar. The Mulayams and Lalus are busy getting over their electoral humiliation and Mayawati is consolidating her position within her own state.
Given the kind of casual manner in which the government is trying to face the new challenges, people will lose all faith in it. In our democracy, people are supreme and through them Parliament as well. The Prime Minister is answerable to the people through Parliament. He must never forget this. Between us.