By Shyam Khosla
The intense bitterness generated by the attitude of the UPA government and the Speaker towards the Opposition has led to a deadlock. There is hardly any communication between the Treasury Benches and the Opposition. NDA'sthree-day boycott of not only the proceedings of the two Houses but also of all the committees is unprecedented in the parliamentary history of the country. The Opposition'smain grouse is that the ruling alliance treats it as an ?enemy? rather than an adversary. This is no way to run parliamentary democracy.
The Opposition is an important and essential part of the democratic process. Differences in policies and perceptions are a part of the game but persons holding responsible offices are not expected to misuse the floor of the House to make wild and unsubstantiated allegations against persons and parties not represented in Parliament. It is for the Speaker to regulate the proceedings and ensure that ministers don'tabuse their positions to spread canards. It is one of the important duties of the Speaker to ensure that no minister misleads the House by making false and wild allegations.
The Opposition has not so far openly taken exception to the Speaker'sattitude presumably for tactical reasons but there is absolutely no doubt that the NDA is deeply hurt by his ?partisan? role. Speakers are presumed to be above party politics. They have to prove it by rising above partisan interests and acting as non-partisan referees. Unfortunately, the Speaker is in no position to resolve the disputes between the ruling alliance and the Opposition, as he is part of the problem.
At the core of the confrontation is the Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav on two counts?his unsubstantiated allegations against the RSS and his refusal to resign even after a court framed charges against him in the multi-crore fodder scam. He enraged the BJP and its allies by his startling allegation in the course of his suo moto statement in Parliament that during his visit to the site of the railway accident near Vadodara, he was ?attacked? by activists of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. The minister made this irresponsible and baseless statement without offering any proof or enquiry. A minister making a statement on the floor of the House needs to be more circumspect than politicians (like Lalu Prasad) making false and baseless allegations against their adversaries?perceived or real?in public rallies.
L.K. Advani was not allowed to speak. What transpired in the Rajya Sabha was more painful. The Treasury benches made a mockery of parliamentary democracy. The Congress is re-enacting what it did in the 70s and 80s.
The Opposition'spersistent demand for the expunction of certain objectionable observations in the Railway Minister'sstatement was ignored. Lalu made matters worse by repeatedly asserting that he stood by his accusations. This led to a confrontation between the Treasury Benches and the Opposition. There were ugly scenes in both the Houses leading to repeated adjournments. Leader of the Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani was not allowed to speak.
What transpired in the Rajya Sabha was more painful. The Treasury Benches made a mockery of parliamentary democracy. The Congress is re-enacting what it did in the 70s and 80s. It has no use for democratic norms. It is taking the country back to the hated Emergency era and dictatorship.
Lalu Prasad has made a lot of noise about the ?attack? on him and stones and petrol bombs thrown at his car in Gujarat. His target is Narendra Modi?his bete noire. He is playing the same old card of arousing communal passions to consolidate his minority vote-bank. Independent observers have given a lie to the canards spread by the Railway Minister. The Gujarat government has ordered a judicial enquiry into the incident. One waits for the report of the enquiry to find out if there was indeed any ?attack? on the minister. In case it turns out that there was no attack and the minister had made a mountain without even a molehill, will Lalu Prasad take the moral responsibility and quit? And will he publicly apologise to the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal for maligning these patriotic organisations?
Former Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, led the Opposition attack on the Railway Minister. He asked Lalu Prasad to resign on moral grounds fully knowing that Lalu is no Lal Bahadur Shastri, who did resign owning moral responsibility for a railway accident. The former Prime Minister proudly talked about his long association with the RSS and deplored the minister'sattempt to implicate the Sangh in the so-called attack. Certain commentators and reporters gave it a malicious twist. What is the basis of their presumption that the former Prime Minister wouldn'tspeak in defence of the RSS? Public memory is short but people have not forgotten that Atalji and his colleagues firmly declined to give up their association with the RSS and faced expulsion from the Janata Party on the dual membership issue in 1980.
The second issue on which Lalu must go is the fact that he stands charge-sheeted for cheating and other crimes in the infamous fodder scam case. Shibu Soren was forced to resign in a similar situation. The only difference is that the court had issued warrants of arrest against the then Minister for Coal. Lalu Prasad and his RJD'ssupport is critical for the durability of the UPA government. Will the Prime Minister allow such a man to be a member of his cabinet and wait endlessly till he is convicted and sent to jail? Lalu has no business to be in the government. He is a slur on the fair name of democracy and the sooner he is shunted out, the better it would be for the country and the image of the Prime Minister.
Dr. Manmohan Singh is perceived to an honest and decent person. The nation expects him to act, and act fast. No one is willing to buy the Congress party'sargument that L.K. Advani and several other ministers in the NDA government didn'tresign even after they were charge-sheeted in the Babri demolition case. It is no one'scase that Advani and others of his ilk were charge-sheeted in a case of moral turpitude. They were actively involved in the Ayodhya movement and had gone to the temple town to participate in karseva. There is ample evidence available to show that they tried their best to restrain the karsevaks from demolishing the disputed structure but failed.
Former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, Maloy Krishan Dhar, in his controversial book, Open Secrets says IB has a video clip showing Advani and others were not involved in the demolition. In any case, that case is political in nature and similar to criminal cases filed against countless political leaders for their involvement in political struggles and movements. The popular perception is that Advani and others of his ilk were implicated in the case at the instance of the Congress government as an act of political vendetta. There is no comparison between Advani and Lalu. The latter is shameless. Advani, on the other hand, set a glorious tradition by resigning his seat in Parliament and vowing not to seek re-election till the courts cleared him in the Jain hawala case. Subsequent events showed that that was yet another act of political vendetta unleashed by a Congress Prime Minister.
Recent incidents show that the Congress party is bent upon undermining democratic institutions with a view to imposing a one-family rule on the country.