The current pandemonium being observed in parliament fails to surprise any longer. This Hobbesian state of affairs is, for India and her Parliament, an unwillingly endorsed, forcefully accepted, reality. The Constitutional Forefathers would be falling into fits of rage and disappointment, but that doesn’t matter, right? Constitutional Forefathers are meant to be squabbled over, to be claimed by the left and the right. Who cares for their principles? So let us engage some Nehru bashing, so that the sins of his posterity are made to haunt him in the heavens. That solves the problem, for we get the votes and they get the muck.
This is one strategy the BJP will be comfortable adopting. The scam-for-scam, muck-for-muck, bravado-for bravado posturing has already begun in Parliament. However, this would ill-serve the BJP, principally and even by means of political practicality.
Firstly, obstructionism is not an invention of the Congress. It is only a bad habit best picked from the BJP. UPA II made fame around the world for all that was undesirable and awful for a parliamentary democratic polity. One of the less noticed of blunders is that this government presided over one of the most unproductive LokSabhas in Indian history. The obstructionists were the same politicians from the BJP who are now trying to grab a moral high-ground, by wearing a mask of victimhood forth an arrogant Congress. Mr.ArunJaitley, now Hon. Finance Minister has gone on record projecting the hypocrisy of his party-policy. This is what he said in an interview to Tehelka; ‘Parliamentary obstructionism can be a part of parliamentary tactics but I admit it should be used in the rarest of rare cases.’ The BJP, thus, ended up determining that after the first eight sessions of UPA I, a historic high of 38% of parliamentary time fell in its definition of the “Rarest of rare cases”. Also, the determination of what falls into the bracket rarest of rare cases is a monopoly of the BJP. No other political party can obstruct proceedings on these grounds. So when the Congress, leading a united opposition, considers a case to be rarest of the rare, its humbug. The BJP demanded the resignation of several UPA ministers, not sparing even the poor Prime Minster, on the basis of misconduct, impropriety, alleged corruption and even conspiracy theories. The demeanor of the BJP in the shoes of the Opposition and that of the Congress in the shoes of the BJP has made Indian politics oblivious to the difference between ‘being called a witch’ and’ being burned at stake’.
Secondly, the BJP is making a massive political misjudgment on two fronts-on the larger long term political front, and on the short term Bihar front. The BJP seems to be calculating that if the Congress continues invariably its ‘hungama’ in the house; it can simply throw its hands up and play innocent, blaming the Congress for the deadlock. However, this is a flawed logic. The Government is squarely responsible for rendering good governance and introducing reform in the state. This makes it the prerogative of the government to calm the house. When two sides of an argument find themselves at polar opposites, they must negotiate compromise and reach a midway, so that a viable solution could be found. By refusing to even comment on the issue, leave alone begin an honest trade-off, the Prime Minister is evading his responsibilities and retreating from the tough decisions that his office requires him to take. Similarly, by projecting a stubborn stance, the Congress is doing disservice to its role as the opposition. The previous government could not win the elections on the rhetoric of victimhood in the house, the current government becoming no exception to this rule. Similarly, public sympathy will tend to rest with the obstructionists; whom they see as committed to the cause of welfare, especially when the government is facing serious and credible allegations on multiple fronts. The fact that the economy is underperforming on almost all fronts, except highly controversial GDP growth figures, and that monsoons seem to be deceiving yet again is only going to amplify the loss of the government at what is best described by PratapBhanu Mehta as the ‘Perception War’. So unless the government pacifies the opposition, there are possibilities of big, if not huge, losses in Bihar. The solace, however is that the rival in Bihar will most probably be the incumbent who has himself failed in multiple respects.
There are two realities that this logjam directs us to.
The first is the absence of a statesman in Indian politics, after AtalBihari Vajpayee. In his column National Interest in the Indian Express(The States Strike Back;24th March, 2012), Shekhar Gupta narrated an incident wherein Vajpayeeji sought to cooperate with reform-minded Congressmen by proposing to call a meeting of Chief Ministers to be chaired by promising Congress leader, then CM of Karnataka, S.M.Krishna.This large-heartedness exemplifies a true commitment to consensus and reform that comes through compromise and goodwill. Modiji might be a much stronger leader than Vajpayeeji ever was, however, by refusing to show this much-required statesmanship, he clearly is not wiser.
The second is the sad truth of just how far off Indian politics is from maturity. As is often remarked, Let us have a High Politics, or let us have none.Neither the Congress, nor the BJP seem to be willing to live up to these words of wisdom. The Indian Parliament rather than facilitating debate, amendment, civilized argument and constructive development has become a hall of symbolism, where MPs turn up to vote or fight, with the work of discussion all having been settled through political settlements externally. From the state of affairs,one might actually observe that Parliament has slipped from a place of greater dignity and order to a place of chaos, disorder and hubris. A similar argument was put forth by Meghnad Desai in his recent column in the Indian Express (July 26, 2015).
The status-quo is not one to be dealt with complacency. We, as citizens of this great republic cannot let our representatives degrade our Parliament to an extent that it becomes the perfect inspiration for a reincarnated Hobbes to write a second Leviathan.
Forgive me for the minute digression, I felt it to be of immediate necessity. At present, however, the BJP must recognize that a small opposition can be the very noisy and troublesome. A mature government that can deal with the democratic process than evade or wear a mask of the innocent sheep will be beneficial politically to the party and economically, to a stagnant economy. Similarly, the Congress must recognize that jumping to the well isn’t always the nicest of things to do. It might harm you by settinga bad precedent for the opposition, when you constitute the Government. So long as you are not convinced of a Congress-mukt Bharat, that is a reasonable incentive.
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