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Mainstream, VOL LX No 30, New Delhi, July 16, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 16, 2022

Friday 15 July 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 16, 2022

The Republic of India’s institutions of state and governance have been under strain over the past decades. But, the post-2014 phase stands in a league of its own. The ruling BJP holds absolute dominance and control in the Parliament and beyond. We are living in a situation where the opposition is very small in numbers and facing a state of siege both inside and outside the Parliament. There is a near breakdown of trust, between the ruling party and the opposition. A lot of decision-making by the Government has a unilateralist and authoritarian style, with disregard for the opposition or even major public institutions like the Reserve Bank of India which were not consulted or informed even over crucial policy issues like demonetisation. The Prime Minister takes no press conferences. He speaks at official events often taking a swipe at the opposition. Much of the criticism coming from the opposition is mocked and dismissed as anti-national talk. The Parliament which is supposed to be a forum for rich debate on public issues is now caught in a tense gridlock. No debate was permitted in Parliament on the public scandal over the use of Pegasus spyware. During multiple parliamentary sessions, practically no debates were allowed, the laws were steamrolled without discussion, the Parliamentary standing committees are dis-functional, and there is frequent use of the ordinance route. The opposition members of Parliament feel increasingly operating in a very hostile environment where they don’t get a hearing. According to some members of Parliament, the Prime Minister himself has not answered a single question in the upper house of Parliament in the past five years. The past week had its share of political controversy with implications for our constitutional democracy in its 75th year. (i) On July 11, 2022 the Prime Minister in the company of the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Deputy Chair of Rajya Sabha, and a cabinet minister unveiled the national emblem on top of the new Parliament building, in clear breach of the separation of powers between Executive and the Legislature. No opposition leaders and members of Parliament or other top officials were invited. A religious ritual was conducted at the unveiling of a national emblem in clear violation of accepted norms since India is a secular country with no faith. The Prime Minister may identify with a particular faith that is his private choice, but he had absolutely no business in his official capacity participating in and allowing a religious ritual to be held on top of India’s newly built Parliament. Some MPS of Opposition very rightly objected as a result (ii) The Parliament has just issued strict rules that no protests, fasts, or any religious rituals are allowed on the premises of even just immediately outside the Parliament, and this just after the Prime minister himself conducted an illegal act of worship on top of the parliament. (iii) That parliaments and legislatures around the world have rules that disallow so-called unparliamentary words or expressions that breach etiquette is not new. The Lower house of Indian Parliament — the Lok Sabha has issued a 2021 booklet listing unparliamentary words and expressions just ahead of the Monsoon session beginning July 18, during which has words like Anarchist…, Bullshit..., Cheat..., Corrupt…, Cockroaches..., ‘taanashahi’ (Dictatorial), Dodgy, Drama, Eyewash..., Fool…, Fraud..., Hypocrite..., Incompetent…, ‘jumlajeevi’ (Conman), Lollipops…, Pet dog..., Rascal..., ...Rubbish..., Penguin..., Psychiatrist..., Saleswoman..., Show off..., Shameful..., Scoundrel..., Windbag..., ‘Behri Sarkar’ (a Deaf Government) can be expunged if used. The opposition is upset at this list since many of these words were freely used by the ruling party MPs when they were in the opposition. No wonder many opposition MPs have labeled the list as a gag order.

July 16, 2022 - HK

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