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Staging a no show

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 05:55 IST

The Lok Sabha spent eight hours discussing the Indo-US nuclear deal on Wednesday. This is as things should be when a matter of such import comes up before the House of the People. Unfortunately, in keeping with the steady decline of parliamentary processes in the country, the Opposition — both on the Left and the Right — and their alleged concern for India’s best interests, most of the debate took place before a nearly empty chamber. The Opposition had succeeded in raising a hue and cry about how national interest was being sold out by the government. Integrity demanded they be present when so much of Parliament’s time was devoted to debating the issue.

Undoubtedly, some members were preoccupied by genuine business. But that can’t account for the absence of a significant number of members. One can only conclude that either national security is not important enough, or the issue as raised by the Opposition was a spurious one, designed more for publicity than to influence or block State policy. What did emerge from the debate is that the Opposition had absolutely nothing to add beyond what they had in the debate in the Rajya Sabha last week and which Manmohan Singh had answered in great detail and with considerable verve. In that case, the Opposition should have heeded the advice of the treasury benches and avoided wasting the precious time of the Lok Sabha, as well as that of the PM and his aides. The same time and effort could have been expended in taking up some other legislative business.

But these days it appears that law-making has slipped off the agenda of our Opposition MPs. The Parliament tends to be used as a theatre. Witness the protest earlier this month when members boycotted the proceedings and gagged their mouth as a form of protest.