Wanton disruption of parliamentary decorum

Wanton disruption of parliamentary decorum
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Wanton disruption of parliamentary decorum

Highlights

The Parliament of India, a fine blend of the legislature and the executive is an edifice which is supposed to command confidence in the people and should have been a place to deliberate, debate and discuss the policies and legislations proposed by the government

The Parliament of India, a fine blend of the legislature and the executive is an edifice which is supposed to command confidence in the people and should have been a place to deliberate, debate and discuss the policies and legislations proposed by the government.

In the last 75 years, there have been very few extreme scenarios, where the MPs belonging to Opposition parties were expelled from the house by the presiding officer of the respective House (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) to allow the ruling party to steer bills through the House without much impediment. There were many occasions when the Parliament was stalled but not for the entire session which now seems to have become the order of the day.

There are several occasions when even great parliamentarians like Atal Behari Vajpayee or L K Advani or Somnath Chatterjee or even the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used to make certain angry remarks and criticise the opponents. But the very next day, the first thing they used to do was express regret for the harsh language used by them.

If you go back to the 1960's, one would realise how discipline, decorum and dignity of the Parliament was given paramount importance and how responsible the members used to be. Records show that in 1963 when the then President of India Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was addressing the joint session of the Parliament, some MPs heckled as the speech was in English instead of Hindi. One Rajya Sabha member walked out.

What happened next is of prime importance and needs to be emulated by the present day leaders. When the house met for its normal business the next working day, all members cutting across party lines condemned the heckling and expressed regrets. But today, the honourable member Pratap Singh Bajwa who climbed on the tables of the officers of the Rajya Sabha asks, "Why should I apologise?"

Expressing his pain over heckling by some members, the then Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru remarked that such incidents need to be met effectively or else the functioning of Parliament and Assemblies would become difficult. The Congress party which does not get tired of speaking about its glorious history should read what Nehru had said then.

The presiding officers during those days used to expunge certain portions of the speech made by a member even if they were less objectionable as compared to the language of the present-day leaders. No statement that was considered to be non-serious or affecting the dignity of the house was allowed. Old timers say that the misbehaviour of the members then used be of much lesser in nature as compared to present day.

Its hight time the members understand that lack of adequate debate results in poor legislations as the governments may tend to go in for issuing of ordinances.

In the past whenever there used to be a logjam, a political consensus was arrived at and Parliament used to turn into an edifying forum. But it is unfortunate that for the fourth consecutive time, the Parliament had to adjourn sine die amidst ugly and unruly scenes.

One would have appreciated if the politicians of the day had indulged in disruptive politics. I hope they won't claim that what we saw during monsoon session was a disruptive scenario. Disruptive politics is business strategy principles' application to political movements. But what we saw was more of destructive mood of the opposition and failure of the ruling party to find ways and means for a consensus.

If there is political consensus the floor of Parliament can be turned into a decent forum to discuss all issues. Conduct of the house is equally the responsibility of he ruling party and the opposition. Why is it happening? Is there no way to change the situation?

This is the issue which needs to be debated first among all political parties and on the eve of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the BJP should take the lead to restore the decorum of the Parliament. Congress party which refuses to change its look and outlook has specialised in inflicting a self-goal whatever the situation be. What started with protests on Pegasus turned into a 'khichdi' of issues.

While some were protesting spyware, others climbed on the tables of the Secretary General of Rajya Sabha and danced demanding repeal of farm laws. Everyone had his own agenda but none of them are showing any sense of regret or remorse.

The result of such destructive attitude is a wasted session of Parliament and criminal waste of public money. It costs approximately Rs 2.5 to Rs 3 lakhs per minute to conduct the house. This calls for urgent measures so that the disruptions can be minimised and public money can be spent more prudently. Rajya Sabha is now said to be contemplating to refer the disruptions particularly, the climbing of a member on the tables of the staff of RS to privilege committee.

Well it should not end there. Barring such member or members from the proceedings of the house for some time would only result in knee-jerk reaction. The presiding officers and the government should sit with all opposition parties and try for a consensus so that decency and decorum can be restored.

We have seen the opposition's tactics during 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) when 40 per cent of the total time was lost to disruptions and the session proved to be least productive when the UPA government was in power and the BJP was in opposition. Now, the situation has reversed, but the trend continues. Such attitude rings alarm bells for a democracy.

The politicians should stop cribbing about the alleged damage done to them by some hacking their twitter account and start finding solutions to the problems facing the common man and the nation. They should not treat Parliament as a battle ground. They should learn to be more responsible and remember that they are the representatives of the public and are supposed to reflect the issues pertaining to their respective constituencies and that they are drawing salaries from the taxes paid by the public. This equally applies to legislators and state governments as well.

The BJP too cannot escape from the blame for all the drama that was witnessed during the monsoon session. The ruling coalition displayed poor management of Parliament. Both sides displayed certain electoral state of mind and have not risen above scoring points against each other. Instead of trying to be competitive by discussing issues, both sides tried to be combative.

When Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa, who threw the rulebook at the Rajya Sabha Chair during a discussion on farm-related issues and refuses to regret says farmers have been protesting for 20 months and yet the government failed to resolve the issue. "We want their voice to be heard," was his reaction.

Yes, he has a point. The voice must be heard. But did he succeed by doing what he did? Instead, justice could have been done if the contentious farm laws were referred to relevant committees where more meaningful discussion could have taken place. These committees are meant to deal with granular aspects of the bill.

The presiding officers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha expressed their pain and anguish over the ruckus in Parliament and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu broke down. The fact is that the system seems to breaking down. There seems to be some structural problems and before the Parliament meets for winter session, the government, the opposition and the presiding officers should ensure that a consensus is arrived at to ensure smooth functioning of the Parliament and the same set of formula can be adopted by the state assemblies which hardly meet these days. Well the trillion- dollar question now is can there be a consensus?

Unless some drastic measures are taken, the proceedings will continue to be least productive. A notable factor here which needs to be viewed seriously is that the least productive sessions are on the increase during the BJP-led NDA rule. The productivity of Lok Sabha was just 22 percent and Rajya Sabha 28 percent. It's not "Disruption"..it was "Destruction" of the Parliamentary decorum!!

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