Editorial: Another washed-out Parliament session?

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, December 07, 2022, 11:09 PM IST
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The three-week winter session of Parliament is set to be stormy. Notwithstanding the exchange of goody-goody words at the customary meeting of Opposition leaders with Government ministers on Tuesday, both sides will stick to the by-now-familiar pattern. That is, shouting matches, out-of-turn speaking, defiance of the rules and the presiding officers, followed by abrupt adjournment of the House.

On its part, the Government too will adhere to its adamant attitude, unyielding on allowing debates without prior notice, stonewalling demands for listing issues it feels uncomfortable about, and counter-attacking the Opposition for its refusal to cooperate. We are not soothsayers, of course. Having watched them closely for decades we have come to the painful conclusion that increasingly members from both the Treasury benches and the Opposition have reduced the august forum of Parliament to a shouting arena where more noise than insightful debates and discussions occur.

We do hope, though, that the winter session will prove us wrong. Meeting in the backdrop of the elections to the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assemblies, besides the poll to the Delhi Municipal Corporation, the session is likely to echo with the spirit of the latest mandates. Given that the ruling party seems to be on course to retain power in Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s home state, and may well do so in Himachal Pradesh too, the Treasury benches will need to keep their euphoria in check instead of adopting a triumphant stance to stifle the Opposition voice, as the all-party meeting on Tuesday revealed that the Government has 16 Bills listed for passage in the session. Hopefully, these will be debated before their passage. The Opposition, on its part, has a whole gamut of issues to discuss in the House. Price rise is the obvious one; given the sharp rise in the price of fuel and food items in recent months, it should be discussed threadbare. The recent depreciation of the rupee, increase in the price of fertiliser despite generous subsidy, the decision to open the agriculture sector for GM mustard, etc, too call for debate. The Congress seems keen to embarrass the ruling party by insisting on discussing the border situation with China, while the government is unlikely to allow an open debate on the security-sensitive issue. The Opposition will also likely rake up the alleged official effort to force Hindi on the southern States. Also, despite programmatic and personality differences, the Opposition is likely to discover commonality in charging the Government with misuse of investigating agencies. The Enforcement Directorate will be thrashed verbally by the Opposition leaders, some of whom have been at the receiving end of the agency’s prying eyes. Then there is the old Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute which has again become front-page news. In short, members have a lot on their plate to discuss in an orderly manner, provided they can resist the temptation to grandstand and disrupt proceedings by rushing to the well of the House or display banners and generally make a nuisance of themselves. People expect better from their MPs than them behaving like spoilt school children amenable to neither order nor discipline.

AAP double-engine in Delhi

As expected, the AAP has won control of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Despite the anti-incumbency of 15 years, the BJP, to the surprise of most pollsters, put up a good fight, winning over a hundred seats in the 250-strong House. The Congress’s poor performance too was expected.

Unfortunately, the MCD election revealed a clear divide between the middle-income groups in the planned residential colonies and the vast mass of shanty-dwellers in the illegal colonies. The former by and large voted for the BJP despite a last-minute lure by AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal offering a say in day-to-day civic affairs, while the poor plumped for the AAP. Clearly, the provision of free bijli-paani swayed them into voting for the AAP. The fact that the civic fathers did not give a good account of themselves in the last 15 years also influenced voting behaviour. Poor civic infrastructure such as pot-holed roads, rotting garbage, etc worked against the BJP. Hopefully, the AAP in the MCD will give a better account of itself and shun confrontation with the Centre.

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