Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
The winter session was washed out amidst furore by opposition parties on demonetisation. The Prime Minister spoke about the demonetisation policy decision everywhere but Parliament as the entire session worked only for 3 days. This session was termed as one of the most unproductive session in recent times, ironically when it was expected to be the most productive as demonetisation had gripped the nation.
The Parliament debates underline the state of affairs. The first debate on demonetisation was initiated in Rajya Sabha but after one day debate, the opposition showed its unwillingness to continue with the debate. It started the demand of continuing the debate under Rule 56 which ends with the vote. However, the treasury benches was not ready to accept it and instead wanted to discuss under Rule 193. An argument on such issue had to be more focussed on pros and cons got entangled between how to be conducted. Here, the opposition had an important role to play to make the government answer for its demonetisation action but the chance was missed due to political brakes.
Demonetisation is a serious issue where reasons could have been asked by the opposition parties and government would havegiven answers for its actions. The people were looking forward to a demonetisation debate which would have shed light on the one month ordeal they had to face without adequate cash. Instead, the debate lost its way in deciding under which article to discuss it.
If both government and opposition stick to their own guns and don’t listen to what others have to say, the democracy will not work well. For problems that concern people, there is necessity of discussion and debate in Parliament. In case of demonetisation, it was reported as government wanted to discuss but opposition was not ready for it.
The opposition parties led by Congress and inclusion of other parties such as JDU, BJD, AIADMK etc. were not on same page for demonetisation debate. Also it was seen that the debate was hijacked by WB Chief Minister and visiting Delhi to register her opposition against demonetisation. This all was not going well with opposition parties which led to no united stand and thereby resulted in weak counter arguments.
The opposition also lost an opportunity to corner the government on the way it implemented the demonetisation decision, fading RBI’s autonomy, lack of cash in banks and ATMs, how bank staff coped up with sudden cash inflow and how the top officials of private banks could provide enormous cash to its privileges customers when public was not getting even the stipulated amount.
People were able to horde lot of cash and created fake cash unavailability situation thereby putting lives of poor and marginal into doldrums.
The opposition could have asked what future actions were to be taken by government and how it was going to bring economy on track post demonetisation.
This issue could have been also raised under adjournment motion which allows setting aside the normal business of the House for discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.
Unfortunately, the debate did not take place fruitfully.
The role of opposition
Opposition has a role to oppose the government and its decision in legislature. However, it also has a role to conduct and allow conduct of debates, discussions, legislation initiation and passage etc. This time, the opposition tried to capitalise on the anger visible on streets due to demonetisation in Parliament, but due to no discussion, the public and the opposition lost a good chance to have insight into demonetisation decision. Also, the opposition’s demand of presence of PM in Parliament all the time while the debate happens is not practical as PM has certain agendas and protocols to be followed throughout the day.
When the opposition was in power and the current government was in opposition, it did not allow smooth functioning of the Parliament. Hence, the present opposition is following the same standards. This however is helping none as precious time is wasted, important legislations are getting delayed in introduction, discussion and passing. Even the President had to mention that Parliament is a platform to hold discussion and not dharna. The legislators going to well in protest is an unparliamentarily behaviour. There need not be consensus on all things said and done but doesn’t mean that discussions should be not held.
Instead a practice should be established before every parliamentary session to agree on holding the session with peace and allow it to function it smoothly.
It is the place from where the government functions, the legislators can bring forward their issues and people have knowledge about the current happenings.
Connecting the dots:
The role of opposition in parliament is an important one yet it has been observed recently that it has been nearly reduced to the role of ‘opposition’ without any productive outcomes. Identify and compare the role of opposition in current and past post independence in India.