The proceedings that took place inside the Rajya Sabha on Monday would make any citizen of the largest parliamentary democracy in the world squirm with shame. To make matters worse, this was not the first time that the nation has been witness to the Budget session of Parliament being held hostage to the din of agit-prop politics. Last year, it was the ‘office of profit’ issue that was used to steamroll legislative business during the Budget session. The year before, there were similar ‘shut-downs’ orchestrated by Opposition MPs protesting against the cash-for-questions scandal. On Monday, it was the turn of Opposition leaders to force the Rajya Sabha into being adjourned. Things took an ugly turn when BJP chief whip SS Ahluwalia pushed his way to try and stop the Finance Minister from replying to the debate on the General Budget, a matter that clearly required the attention of all in the House, if not their approval.
Blocking proceedings — especially during the Budget session of Parliament — is not how a parliamentary system is supposed to work to register protest against any contentious issue. Laws pertaining to the Union Budget cannot be simply left in a deadlock. For India’s economic policies, as translated into law, to remain undiscussed suggests that political maturity is sinking to new lows. One would have thought that the BJP, a national party that knows the extreme importance of the Budget session in the nation’s legislative cycle, would have refrained from using mob tactics. Instead, its senior leaders sat back while a farce was being played out inside Parliament.
And it is not the BJP alone that needs to be singled out for such criminal disruptions. In the past, other contentious issues like the Tehelka scam in 2001 saw the Budget session falling by the wayside, to be overwhelmed by oppositional (then Congress) drum-beatings. What does derailing Budget session proceedings — that actually account for the ‘bread and butter’ issues of the country — actually manage to do? Nothing and nothing — in terms of pushing the oppositional cause as well as conducting much-required go-aheads to economic laws. There is a danger that such baleful instances of ‘running riot’ will increasingly be seen as turning into a tradition. MPs of both Houses should seriously understand that whatever their political disposition, the Budget session requires a bipartisan approach that allows it to be conducted with all the seriousness that it deserves. No one has the right to play politics with the economic future of India and its people.