When House gets down to business - Hindustan Times
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When House gets down to business

ByHT Editorial
Jun 21, 2024 09:06 PM IST

Treasury benches and the Opposition must accommodate their respective concerns for the 18th Lok Sabha to have a productive tenure

The 18th Lok Sabha will open for the first time on Monday, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will take its place in the treasury benches for the third consecutive time, signifying a landmark not achieved since the Republic’s infant years. Across the aisle will be an energised Opposition swollen in ranks and buoyed by its better-than-expected performance in the general elections. One by one, representatives of the world’s largest democracy will be sworn in, followed by the election of the custodian of the Lower House, the Speaker, and the speech by the President laying down the government’s agenda.

New Delhi, India - June 3, 2024: Security personnel infront of Parliament house on the eve of result of General Lok Sabha election in New Delhi, India, on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - June 3, 2024: Security personnel infront of Parliament house on the eve of result of General Lok Sabha election in New Delhi, India, on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

This session marks the first time that Parliament is meeting after the world’s largest elections not only cemented India’s place as the world’s biggest democracy but also affirmed the vibrancy of its grassroots processes. The representatives who enter the home of Indian democracy will have to remember their solemn duty to not only represent their constituents to the best of their abilities but also contribute in good faith to maintaining the highest standards of lawmaking.

The last few sessions of Parliament were witness to unseemly stand-offs between the government and the Opposition and the widening of the trust deficit between both sides. The government felt its democratic mandate was being disrespected while the Opposition was upset by what it saw as the government using its numerical superiority to ram bills through, short-circuiting the parliamentary process. The new session and parliamentary officials will have to find a way to break this impasse, and open channels of communication that allow the House to function to its fullest ability.

Moreover, over the years, fewer bills were being referred to committees, fuelling the perception that the primary function of Parliament – scrutinising bills – was suffering. This impression was further strengthened with pandemonium often replacing sobering debate and discussion in the House. The lawmakers and officials will need to carve out time for both sides to raise issues, and for sufficient scope to scrutinise key legislation.

The first session will mark an epoch. After two consecutive terms of single-party majority, the Indian public has voted for continuity but also judiciousness, certainty but also collaboration. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is well short of a majority on its own for the first time in a decade, though it has a majority as part of the NDA, and the Opposition is strengthened by its revival. This can easily slip into confrontations and face-offs, but all lawmakers must prioritise careful deliberation.

At the heart of the issue is the willingness and sincerity that needs to be shown by all parliamentarians to lawmaking. They have to prioritise discussion over acrimony, debate over disruption. This will need accommodation and sagacity from both sides, as well as a commitment to showcase the best of India’s hallowed tradition of parliamentary procedures, speeches and rebuttals.

The upcoming session will likely see the balance of power between the government and the Opposition being recalibrated in the 18th Lok Sabha. In the balance will hang key issues that affect millions of people, such as irregularities in premier examinations, the climate crisis that has upended lives across the country, and a better deal for India’s vast poor. The government, Opposition and parliamentary officials will need to remain flexible, and create a compact on allowing Parliament to function. Nothing less will befit the nerve centre of the largest democracy in the world.

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