Dysfunctional democracy


The world’s largest democracy, as we used to proudly describe Indian democracy, is fast turning into a dysfunctional democracy. A parliamentary...

The world’s largest democracy, as we used to proudly describe Indian democracy, is fast turning into a dysfunctional democracy. A parliamentary democracy in which the Parliament does not function, or is not allowed to function for whatever reason, is an ersatz democracy. After all, Parliament is the supreme forum for considering the problems of the people and resolving them. If it shirks that responsibility, thanks to its members having their own problems which they want to be addressed before all others are and walking into the Well of the House to protest against perceived neglect and to highlight their problems, Parliament loses all dignity.

Worse, even if the presiding officer of either House has the power to punish such of its delinquent members as hold up the proceedings of the House, those punitive powers are yet to be exercised. As a result, both Houses of parliament have come to resemble classrooms in a school packed with froward children who believe that they have the run of the place and can do what they want with impunity. Even though the last Budget session was a total washout, the current monsoon session has also begun on an ominous note. There is no law against every parliamentarian imagining he/she is the ultimate patriot and all others are but Quislings of foreign powers.

But when that super patriotism is sought to be exhibited on the floor of the House, it only makes a mockery of Parliament. Those who want the nation to believe that the Government is straining at the leash and would go berserk if the Opposition lifted the yoke from its shoulder owe it to the nation to prove that they take Parliament more seriously than the Treasury benches do. That the Treasury benches believe that just by virtue of being what they are, they have a right to cock a snook at Opposition members is true enough. That attitude needs to be condemned as it smacks of arrogance of power. They clearly do not realize that office is not a freehold but leasehold, and that the lease will end the day the electorate feels they have overstayed their welcome. That is all the more reason why the Opposition should behave with dignity when collaring the Government. God knows that the Government’s sins of omission and commission are countless. But the Opposition pounces only on such of them as may hurt it politically or electorally.

But where there is a convergence of interest among major political parties, they are thick as thieves. Take, for instance, the Chief Information Commissioner’s order to all political parties to reveal the sources of their income as they are “public authorities” at least because they get sizable subsidy from the government. In opposing this directive, all parties are united because no party wants to see skeletons roll out of its closets. By the same token, the Government is reportedly planning to introduce a Bill to amend the Constitution to negate the effect of the Supreme Court judgment that convicted MPs/MLAs/MLCs/ should stand disqualified automatically.

A Constitution amendment needs the support of 2/3rds of the members of both Houses of Parliament present and voting, and there need be no doubt that almost all members of both Houses will vote for the Bill! If the present Parliament is convinced about the correctness of its stand, let it fight the 2014 elections on the lone plank that amending the Constitution if only to save the skin of its members with a past to live down. If even 10% of the members of the present Parliament get elected, the nation could be deemed to have endorsed the move. With less than a year due for the next general elections, this Parliament has no moral authority to change the Executive-judiciary equation even with the support of all members of both Houses.

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