Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ashwani Kumar says public opinion needs to assert itself to ensure Parliament discharges its mandate through purposive and constructive debates on national issues. In an interview, he says all political parties should collectively ensure that Parliament is not made dysfunctional.
The recently concluded budget session, which saw many acrimonious disruptions, has disappointed many people and some have begun to question the relevance of Parliament itself. Your comment?
Bitter and acrimonious debates do tend to deflect from the principal national issues. In an atmosphere of an intensely competitive and conflict ridden politics, constructive, reasoned and moderated debate becomes a casualty. Repeated disruptions as a consequence of personalised and bitter political posturing has reduced the efficacy of Parliament as the highest forum for debate and discussions.
There is a feeling that different branches of government are encroaching on each other’s domain and this is primarily because of the decline in the credibility of political executive. Is this a valid perception?
Some people believe that the judiciary has adopted a proactive role which tends to impinge on the role of the political executive and the legislature. I can only say that superior courts are constitutionally mandated to sub serve constitutional goals and as the judiciary itself is the arbiter of what it can and cannot do, it is difficult in our scheme of constitutional governance to question its wisdom which is ultimately a matter of judicial discretion. However, for any constitutional democracy based on the separation of powers to function well it is necessary for each branch of the government to observe restraint and discretion so as not to upset the diffusion of sovereign power and the balance of constitutional governance.
Does coalition compulsion come in the way of purposive governance? Do you think that various scandals and allegations of corruption have affected governance?
I do tend to agree that there are compulsions in running a coalition government but there can be no compromise on fighting corruption, which has been demonstrated by the resolute action taken by the UPA leadership. It is unprecedented for any serving minister to have had to do time in jail and for a serving chief minister to quit his post. It is also unprecedented for the government to ask the Supreme Court to directly monitor investigation by agencies in corruption cases. I think the need of the hour is to ensure that the finest of people are placed in positions of authority so as to raise a presumption of integrity in favour of decision makers.
How do you foresee the possibility of a functioning Parliament where momentary issues can be subordinated to larger national goals?
All political parties must unanimously agree that under no circumstances will the legislative institutions be made dysfunctional. Larger national issues need to be addressed. We need to find an acceptable basis for peace talks with for which the Prime Minister has taken the initiative. We also need to address naxal violence and challenges of acute poverty and social divides.