Today 25 members of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha or the lower house of the Indian Parliament have been suspended for a period of five consecutive sessions. This is perhaps for the first time that so many have been suspended. The reason is that the Congress Party members along with many other opposition members are protesting, since last many days by showing placards and shouting slogans, demanding resignation of the Foreign Minister and two Chief Ministers for alleged corruption and other charges. The ruling party has, it seems, decided to brazen it out and is not submitting to theirdemand. The result is that there is a logjam and no work has been done by the Parliament since it started this Monsoon session. The Congress party has 44 members and with 25 under suspension it will now have only 19 members.
It was the ruling BJP party which started the practice of demanding resignation of tainte miisters ad would not allow the Parliament to function by creating repeated blocking scenes in the House. This would frce the Speakers to adjourn the proceedings. One whole session of Parliament was once washed out. BJP members, some of whom today are Ministers woud justify stalling tactics as part of democracy and their democratic right to do so. Today the same party is preaching that such tactics now adopted by Congress are wrong and unjustified. THe government has not yet been able to break the logjam by negotiations.
It is often quoted these days that the British Parliament has never been adjourned due to unruky behaviour by its mambers. If true it speaks great volumes about the sense of accomodation shown by British MP's from both sides. Soon it might be news that Indian Parliament worked for a few hours on a particular day. What a contrast.
Why has it come to such a state in India Parliament?
The Congress party has ruled India for over fifty years out of the sixty seven years after independence in 1947. It was thus a dominant party and other opposition parties where finding it very difficut to get a foothold in the Parliament. Over the years the Congress party started losing its hold and the BJP emerged as the principle opposition party.The Congres Party was forced to form coalition governmentswith otherparties especially in 2004 and 2009. BJP had got an opportunity in 1999 to form a coalition goverment but lost power in 2004. This came as a shock to the party and for next ten years its behaviour became very obstinate towards the Congress as it felt it was the logical ruling party as it represented the majority community.
The Congress in its term from 2009 to 2014 was hit by multiple corruption scandals which dented its image amongst voters considerably. The BJP saw this a god given opportunity and resorted to demanding resignations of involved ministers and would not allow the Parliament to function. Another idea was not to allow the government to pass key legislations which could neutralize its falling image. Congress had to submit by asking its tainted ministers to resign so that Parliament functioned. BJP had tasted blood and kept upping the demands and Congress found it very difficult to run the Parliament. Many key legislations could not be taken up. The present Prime Minister used these flaws in Congress to maximum advantage during the run up to 2014 general elections which saw BJP coming to power with an absolute majority of its own with 282 seats in a House of 512 members.Congress was reduced to an humiliating 44 seats.
Today there are allegations against BJP stalwarts at the Center and in Sates. The now in opposition Congress party is asking for their resignations as was done by the previous opposition party BJP to Congress Ministers in previous governments. But unlike Congress which has always had a tradition of removing such Ministers, the BJP is steadfastly refusing even to consider such demand and is adamant that it will not do
It is well known that it requires both the ruling and opposition parties to run the Parliament smoothly.Why the is BJP acting tough and not conceding to atleast some demand of the Congress to allow the House to function smoothly. The reasons are not far to seek. During the 2014 election campaign the present PM raised the anti corruption pitch so high that he almost guaranteed that there would be no corruption in his government both at the Center and States ruled by BJP. Voters trusted him and voted to bring him to power with an absolute majority, which has happened after nearly thirty years. Now if the BJP were to ask the foreign minister to resign it would dent the image of the PM considerably and also lead to a chain of resignations by other alleged tainted ministers.
The BJP's main plank of corruption free government would collapse in the second year of its rule.at the Center. Thye PM's prestige would fall and he would be seen as a paper tiger.Therefore to avoid all this the BJP has decided to brazen its way even if it means wash out of an entire Parliament session. It would put the blame on the Congress and hold them responsible for many vital Bills not seeing the light of the day.
However today's suspension f 25 Congress members indicates that the BJP has a trick or two up its sleeve. It feels Congress has had enough of stalling the proceedings and now it needs to be shown its place. So for unruly behaviour its more than half MP's have been suspended for almost the remaining period of the current monsoon session. Hoping that now there will be less or manageable disruption by the decimated Congress members, it can conduct the business in the Lok Sabha and pass a few Bills. In this way it will show Congress its place, not allow its Ministers to resign and also carry out some business in the House. News is coming in that the government has withdrawn all amendments to the Land Acquistion Bill thereby enabling its passage in the truncated Lok Sabha.
Will it succeed remains to be seen. Congress's response and strategy will be interesting to know. Already two opposition parties have stated that in protest to Speaker's decision of suspending members they will not be attending Parliament from tomorrow. It is worth debating that where the previous Speakers right in not suspending members causing disruptions days on end or where they following a healthy tradition of tolerating protest even within the House, Is it right for the present Speaker to break the tradition and appear "partisan" to the ruing party,Can Bills be said to have been properly debated when principle opposition party members are suspended and not allowed to take part in proceedings.Has the Congress erred in following the BJP members behavior when they were in opposition and miscalculated their response now that they are in power.
All in all the Parliament Houses meet only to be adjourned. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV channels get to show all sort of programs to fill the time slots meant to show the proceedings.It is a sad commentary on the poor behavior by both the ruling and the opposition parties inside the Houses. Instead of competing for power by positive work both are trying to outdo each other negatively. Is it healthy for Indian democracy.Hope things improve fast and economy gets the attention it deserves.