Another session of Parliament is set to begin today. Hopefully, it will not go the way of the previous session and function in an orderly manner. Though the chances of good sense prevailing do appear slim, we still hope that rival parties would refrain from turning Parliament into a laughing stock of the people — good only for shouting matches, defiance of the presiding officers, and very much precious little else. Twenty-five bills are listed for passage. Among these are the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, etc.
The Opposition will have much to raise in this session. The bid to embarrass the Government can take any form with a number of issues presenting themselves for agitating on the floor of the House. The incidents of lynchings following false rumours on social media sites is an obvious case. Here, the Government and the Opposition can have a near consensus since social media is an open platform and lends itself to abuse by all sorts of elements for ulterior purposes. Striking a balance between the freedom of the new age medium and policing it without encroaching on citizens’ right to privacy can see the two sides on the same page. But the Opposition will try and hold the Government responsible for rumour-based killings, and thus, invite an equally vociferous response from the ruling party.
Rising consumer inflation, depreciating currency, continuing bank frauds and the arrest of senior bank managers, the dismissal of the Mehbooba Mufti Government, the agrarian crisis, PM’s foreign visits et al are subjects which can be taken up without throwing the House into bedlam. Besides, in the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition will seek to take the lead in electing a new deputy chairman after the retirement of the last incumbent P J Kurien of the Congress Party. Whether the Government has the requisite numbers to have its own candidate elected is not clear, but after the desertion of the Telugu Desam Party, it will be hard for the NDA to have its way. The Government was reportedly keen to endorse a member of the Trinamool Congress for the prestigious post but it seems Mamata Banerjee prefers another party member, thereby causing the ruling party to re-think its offer. It will prove highly contentious if, lacking numbers, the Government tried to put off the election of the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha for another session.
A consensus candidate will be the best for him to inspire confidence of all sides in his independence and impartiality as a presiding officer. Parliament can accomplish much if the MPs commit themselves to behave in an orderly manner. But because the proceeding are televised live and the voters do not penalise disrupters, members seek to make a mark less as keen debaters and alert representatives and more as noise-makers and delinquents. Ultimately, it is for the voters to send out a message that disorderly conduct would invite rejection at the polling booths.