Democracy has been defined as government by debate. The tradition of debate is old in our country. But such a debate can be fruitful only when each party carefully listens to what the other has to say and has the desire to accept the truth in it. —Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya
Though democratic values are same, certain traditions evolve with the democratic process that characterises that polity. In Bharat, disrupting Parliament proceeding has become an established way to censure the government with blame game technique. Despite all efforts by the government to engage the opposition, this winter session is witnessing the same. The real question is about the reason for such stalling. If we compare and contrast the reasons behind Parliamentary disruptions, we may find some way out to reinstall certain democratic practices.
If we compare the functioning of Parliamentary sessions we find certain traits. According to the PRS research, the Lok Sabha met for an average 127 days every year in the 1950s and the Rajya Sabha for 93 days. This has decreased to 73 days for both Houses in 2011. If the first Lok Sabha had passed an average of 72 bills each year, it has decreased to 40 bills a year in the 15th Lok Sabha. Since 1970s, when the Congress monopoly was challenged at the state level, legislative performance is on decline. Particularly last two decades the decline is quite sharp with the fractured mandates. Generally, earlier half of the Parliament has functioned better than the latter one the previous tenures. The 15th Lok Sabha, with UPA II government in power, could utilise only 61 per cent of its productive time, the worst in Bharateeya legislative history. The present term of the present Lok Sabha started on a positive note with more than 100 per cent performance during the first three sessions. The striking contrast in the present scenario is, Rajya Sabha, which is supposed to be a matured and elderly house, has kept the present Parliamentary functioning to ransom, while previously it was the Lok Sabha with popular mandate, was leading the show.
Is it for the due reason? During the UPA tenure, most of the Parliament disruptions took place due to allegations of corruption. Owing to the 2G scam, the Parliament first time in its history witnessed the complete wash out of a session. The CAG report on coal block allocations, the FDI in retail and Anna Hazare’s anti-graft agitation had its own impact on both Houses. Telangana issue also consumed much of the time of the previous Parliament. So the issues were genuine though some may question the method. What is happening now is frivolous. Manufactured intolerance was the talking point when the session started. After government addressed the concerns, National Herald and misuse of government agency became the talking point. Then Rahul Gandhi came with a story of denying him a temple entry by RSS activists in Assam, which never happened. P Chindambaram, former Home Minister, is crying foul for the action against his son in financial misappropriation. If that was not enough, CBI enquiry reached to the Principal Secretary of Delhi Government, which was projected as another case of vendetta. In other words, with the opposition majority in Rajya Sabha the legislative agenda is being stalled with a new story telling theatrics. In the UPA period most of the disruptions were on the charges of corruptions, while presently, legislature is being stalled for investigating the corruption charges.
It is true that smooth functioning of the Parliament is the responsibility of the treasury benches but the essence of democracy is collective responsibility towards the nation. As perpetual elections mode is one of the reasons for parliamentary theatrics, recent proposal by a parliamentary panel to the Election Commission regarding conduction of simultaneous elections for state and national legislatures is worthwhile. How can Rajya Sabha play a constructive role in legislative agenda needs a serious deliberation. Guaranteeing assured time for the opposition agenda, like the British Parliament, also can be considered. The threshold for filing written notices should also be increased. Besides institutional mechanisms, enlightened public pressure on their representatives is the key to minimise the blame game over derailed legislative agenda. Otherwise, ‘disruption’ will replace the real soul of democracy that is ‘debate and discussion’.