The outcome of the Monsoon Session

The monsoon session of Parliament has ended, cut short by the continued standoff between the treasury and Opposition benches
A view of the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on Wednesday, August 11. (PTI) PREMIUM
A view of the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on Wednesday, August 11. (PTI)
Updated on Aug 12, 2021 06:09 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

The monsoon session of Parliament has ended, cut short by the continued standoff between the treasury and Opposition benches. There were three broad political takeaways from the session. One, India’s Parliament, and, by extension Indian democracy, is in crisis. The session saw disruptions on each day; unilateral passage of legislations; unprecedented scenes of Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) snatching papers, throwing the rule book at the Chair, and sitting on the secretariat table; suspension of seven MPs; and, depending on who you believe, an assault on a woman marshal, or the use of marshals against the Opposition with women MPs alleging they were attacked. As Chakshu Roy pointed out in this newspaper, the Lok Sabha took an average of ten minutes and Rajya Sabha an average of half an hour to pass laws. Despite the almost unanimous demand of the Opposition, the government refused to send a bill which would enable the privatisation of general insurance companies to a select committee — unsurprising given that only 11% of the bills in the three years of the 17th Lok Sabha have gone to parliamentary committees. All of this indicates that Parliament is neither fulfilling its function of deliberative lawmaking nor of holding the executive accountable.

Two, the session marked the return of caste as the fundamental fault line in Indian politics. With the unanimous passage of a constitutional amendment to restore the power of states to draw their own list of backward classes, and the overwhelming demand for both a caste census and a provision to allow reservations to exceed the 50% ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court, it is clear that the medium-term future of politics lies in the management of identity politics. The government will focus on the enhanced representation of Other Backward Classes and highlight its commitment to reservations to sustain its electoral coalition. The Opposition will seek to fracture the government’s multi-caste alliance by raising demands which are sure to upset the latter’s upper caste base. Instead of moving towards a political imagination which makes individual citizens with rights and universal justice key principles, India is descending further into the morass of group identity-based politics.

And finally, the Opposition in Parliament indicates that despite differences over leadership and alliances, there is a fundamental convergence across regional parties and the Congress about the need to battle the Bharatiya Janata Party. In the House, the political class was already fighting the 2022 Uttar Pradesh and 2024 general elections and trying to send signals to their respective constituencies. This polarisation is set to deepen.

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Saturday, July 02, 2022