December 05, 2021

BJP’s Contempt for Parliament

THE first day of the winter session of parliament revealed a great deal of what the Modi government’s attitude to parliament is – outright contempt for parliament and its democratic functioning.

Contrary to what prime minister Modi had declared, at the outset, that the government is willing to discuss any issue and reply to any question raised by the opposition, the ruling party refused to allow any discussion on the repeal of the three farm laws and attendant issues.

Just as the government had ran through the three farm laws in September 2020 without any proper discussion and scrutiny by the relevant parliamentary committee, so also now the government pushed through the repeal bill within minutes, refusing to allow any discussion. The presiding officers showed scant regard for parliamentary proprieties. 

The worst display of authoritarianism is being witnessed in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP alliance is unsure of getting a majority on all legislations.  So the approach is to muzzle the opposition – refusal to refer any important legislation to a joint select committee, refusal to have a comprehensive discussion on bills, and most objectionably, not allowing a member’s right to call for division and voting.

The Rajya Sabha saw on the opening day the adoption of a resolution suspending 12 MPs for the entire session.  They were alleged to have behaved in an unruly and violent fashion during the previous session on August 11.  This was a premeditated provocation to get the opposition to react and create a situation whereby the government could get all its bills passed without opposition.

It must be recalled that the alleged incident of “unruly behavior” of the MPs was occasioned by the fact that the bill to privatise General Insurance was pushed through without taking up a motion to refer it to a select committee and also the denial of a vote on the matter.

Apart from the invalidity of “disciplining” MPs for some incident in a previous session of the house and the targeting of the leader of the CPI(M) group, Elamaram Kareem, despite his name not appearing in the list of 33 who were named on that day, the motive of the ruling party is to somehow suppress the voice of the opposition which is stronger in the upper house.

The opposition parties are unitedly protesting this assault on the rights of MPs and the opposition.  This unity in action on issues which come up within parliament is how a united resistance can be built. 

But outside parliament, the efforts of Mamata Banerjee and the TMC to exercise leadership of a united opposition is not going to fructify, just as the desire of the Congress to play that leading role came to naught. 

The farmers’ struggle has shown what a sustained united struggle can achieve.  The opposition parties should draw the appropriate lesson.  No omnibus unity at the all-India level with a “leader” is going to work.  The broadest unity can be forged through the united actions of different sections of the working people.  This should be accompanied by the projection of alternative policies and politics to the Hindutva authoritarian regime, around which all democratic and secular forces can rally around. 

(December 1, 2021)