Parliament impasse: Non-Cong opposition must play peace-maker
The protagonists in the protracted parliamentary face-off have boxed themselves in -- the treasury a lot more as its key legislations stand blocked. That doesn't mean the Congress is comfortably placed; there being no sign of the BJP willing to open the slipway the principal Opposition needs out of the logjam.Updated: Aug 10, 2015 09:29 IST
The protagonists in the protracted parliamentary face-off have boxed themselves in -- the treasury a lot more as its key legislations stand blocked. That doesn't mean the Congress is comfortably placed; there being no sign of the BJP willing to open the slipway the principal Opposition needs out of the logjam.
House proceedings are mostly unpredictable. But for now the people who could have intervened to broker a truce are in partisan mode: the PM and his Home, Parliamentary Affairs and Finance Ministers, not to mention the Speaker, who took upon herself to suspend 25 unruly Congress MPs for their unremitting defiance.
The rules empower the Chair to so decide. But most suspensions in the past have been through House resolutions moved by the Treasury. That's wiser as it insulates the Speaker - whose job also is to play the referee between members and parties -- from the Opposition's line of fire.
In the ongoing impasse, the ruling combine has tended to insulate itself rather than the Speaker by attributing to her the five-day bar on the members she named. Now that isn't the brightest way to run parliament. For except the PM (who hasn't been a direct participant in the ongoing slanging match) there isn't any weighty figure left on the ruling side to set up the talks table with the Opposition.
If the Treasury burnt all bridges, so has the Congress.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have led from upfront the sack Sushma Swaraj-campaign bordering on the belligerence that's unknown to the grand old party. If at all, with whom will the hitherto unresponsive PM speak?
That leaves the non-congress Opposition whose support bolstered theCongress's post-suspensions protests outside the House. Will they or can they, play peace-makers? Maybe, as some among them, especially those from the Left, are strong votaries of debate. They'd have intervened earlier and with greater gravitas had the Speaker not sent the agitating members packing.
The ousted Lok Sabha members had good reasons to be restive. But their stalling tactics weren't sustainable unless other parties came on board. That the Speaker got provoked -- or allowed herself to be provoked --altered the landscape. The Congress got the booster doze it needed, not as much on the Swaraj issue as on the en bloc suspensions.
The ejections the Speaker decreed came across as the Treasury firing the gun from her shoulders. The spectre didn't go down well with even those pleading a lenient stance towards the besieged External Affairs Minister. What followed was a broader boycott of the Lower House and incessant disruptions in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacked the numbers.
What then can now be done to strike a meeting ground?
With the droughty monsoon sitting at its fag end, the non-Congress opposition would do well to implore the warring sides to debate in the session's closing week the recent terror attacks (in Punjab and Jammu) in the domestic, regional and international context. For blame will have to be collectively shared by all parties if they fail to reflect the national consensus on the threat. More so when there are reports of the dreaded Islamic State (IS) acquiring footprints in the sub-continent.
The discussion on terrorism and the proposed India-Pakistan talks could be without prejudice to the stated positions of parties on Lalitgate and Vyapam. If nothing else, it will provide a breather so direly needed to smother frayed sentiments, unless, of course, the terror debate too denigrates to name calling.
The risk nevertheless is worth taking.
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