Rahul Gandhi wins, nation loses

The Congress MPs continued their racket inside Parliament on Monday as well. The suspension of 25 members of the party for five days by the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan last week clearly had no effect. They were back in the Lok Sabha on Monday morning with their frivolous placards, and kept up a steady noise throughout the time the House was in session. Speaker Mahajan was, in our view, wrong in not administering the same bitter medicine of suspensions she had done last week. She ought to have sternly warned them against continuing their un-parliamentary conduct at the pain of suspensions. If the presiding officer fails to call the House to order, we are afraid, we will have to worry about the future of our democratic system.

Indeed, Speaker Mahajan should take the lead in convening a meeting of the presiding officers of the state legislatures in the national capital during the inter-session period and try to evolve a consensus on the best ways to ensure order in each and every assembly. Given that presiding officers belong to various political parties, the consensus so reached should carry some weight. In any case, the time has come for the presiding officers to try and stop the epidemic of bad behavior by MLAs and MPs inside their respective Houses. Their rowdy behavior not only reflects poorly on them but it brings into disrepute the entire democratic system. Granted, that the presiding officers more often than not are prisoners of the parties on whose tickets they may have been elected. But once the roles are clearly defined, and a clear Lakshman Rekha drawn for every member, it should be easy to enforce discipline. For instance, a firm consensus needs to be built that no member shall enter the well of the House, that there shall be no slogan-shouting, and, certainly, no display of placards inside the House. Following such a consensus, the task of enforcing a modicum of order would become that much easier. Therefore, Mahajan’s failure to enforce order or, failing which, to suspend the trouble-makers on Monday is so disappointing.

Now the same noise-makers would try and disrupt the House on Tuesday as well. It is clear that the Congress Party does not want this Parliament to function. It is not interested whether Sushma Swaraj stays or resigns. Its agenda is to somehow ensure that the Modi Government is unable to function.That is the real game. Sushma, Vasundhara Raje or Shivraj Singh Chauhan are mere excuses. A Modi government that works, frightens the Gandhis so much that they sit up from their sleep with fear and sweat on their faces, unable to contemplate the future without power and privilege, when even the few durbaris that they are still left with, might desert for greener pastures elsewhere. That is the fear that is behind the irrational and undemocratic stalling of Parliament. Nothing else. Corruption has never been an issue with the Gandhis. And never will be. After all, not only are they shining symbols of corruption but have got where they have only by benefiting personally from monumental corruption. We will not cite any scams. No, not even Bofors. Or Ottavio Quattorrocchi. No. It is simply that if there is corruption all around us it is the gift of the Congress Party which ruled this country for over five decades before it was replaced by other political parties. Today, corruption, in lesser or greater degree, is the common political currency. No party, including the newly-minted Aam Aadmi Party, is free from it. But when the Congress stalls Parliament on corruption, it sounds most unconvincing, nay, hypocritical.

Meanwhile, the Modi Government is ill-served by its flat-footed floor managers. Neither Venkaiah Naidu nor Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is particularly good at building bridges with the Opposition members. Reaching out to the Opposition leaders, seeking cooperation for the larger public good, indulging in a bit of give and take off-duty hours, something the late Pramod Mahajan or the Congress leader Kamal Nath were widely known to be proficient at, has never been the forte of either Naidu or Naqvi. Though it is wrong to accuse the Government of arrogance, it is nonetheless correct that it failed to enlist the support of even those Opposition leaders who disdained Rahul Gandhi’s maximalist approach. In fact, Rahul Gandhi evokes derision on the Opposition benches for his `my way or highway’ stance, but because the Government leaders operated in isolation, most non-Congress leaders were not enthusiastic in helping it break the logjam.  The monsoon session is due to end on Thursday, August 14. It is doubtful if it will be allowed to conduct any meaningful business. If stalling Parliament is an achievement, Rahul Gandhi can claim the first prize.

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