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Mainstream, VOL L No 42, October 6, 2012

Disruption of Parliament: Threat to Democracy

Thursday 11 October 2012, by Anil Rajimwale

Recent times have witnessed a strange and disturbing phenomenon in the Indian parlia-mentary system, that of continued disruption and disturbance of the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament. Every right-thinking person will be highly disturbed by this tendency, as is clear also from several comments in the recent issues of Mainstream. Virtually no business was transacted in the current session of Parliament. Every time the Houses met to consider something or the other, they were immediately drowned in shouting and sloganeering, and nothing was heard in the din and noise. This happened not just for one or two days but
for days together continuously. Every day more than 170 crores of rupees were spent on the session, but this amount was totally wasted. The voters and taxpayers got simply nothing out of this utterly unseemly behaviour of our elected representatives of almost all the parties and hues, with only a few exceptions. It appears that nobody is bothered about the fact of this huge wastage, and more than that, about the threat to and degradation of our highest democratic institution.

Why have the MPs and other representatives been elected and sent to Parliament and such other bodies? They carry a mandate to represent the interests of the people and voters. They are not authorised to disrupt the proceedings of the supreme Houses, and certainly not waste the precious money of the country and people. The very gentlemen and women are debating what? Corruption, scams, wastage of ‘people’s’ money and so on! And while so doing, they themselves are wasting not just millions but billions of rupees every day! What a mockery of democracy by the elected representatives themselves! What have they discussed? We do not know; we just do not know who said what, the arguments put for and against, if at all, and so on. We do not know which party proposed what solutions, arguments and counter-arguments. Certainly, things have appeared in the media, which have tried to highlight the views of various parties and individuals, and written their own ‘stories’ etc. But the media is not and cannot be the substitute for the parliamentary institutions.

Here is a concrete task for the civil society: that of protection and development of Parliament and the democratic system itself. The parliamentary institutions are among the most valuable achievements of the people in independent India. We struggled for it since the British days. The Indian Constitution is a unique document imparting full adult franchise without any discrimination and differentiation. No other Constitution can match it. Our elected institutions were created under the most difficult conditions of communal, Rightwing and imperialist disruption, conspiracies by most of the princely states that did not recognise India’s independence, the aftermath of Gandhiji’s murder, and attempts to prevent the rise of democracy, to raise hurdles in the path of India’s economic development. Despite all this, democracy gradually took roots and evolved and the Indian people got a potent weapon of struggle, of expressing their wish and will and even of changing governments and regimes. The history of independent India proves that the Indian voters and people in general have not taken injustice lying down, and they have used the ballot box to bring about many democratic changes.

When contrasted with neighbouring countries like Pakistan and other states, we can at once realise the great necessity and positive role of the vast network of democratic institutions in India. Many other countries are still struggling even to begin to establish democratic institutions. Our country is much ahead in political democracy, which has fashioned us in many ways. Masses play a big role through it, in contrast to some other countries.

There are many drawbacks in the Indian parliamentary system no doubt, much of which has to do with the class orientation of our society and economy, in which big business is favourably placed. Yet people have time and again proved that the Constitution and parlia-mentary institutions do not belong only to the privileged sections, and that they are also people’s organs. Installation of progressive and secular, democratic, Left and people-oriented regimes in several States time and again proved this point beyond doubt.

We have a lot to improve and renovate and even innovate. We have to change many aspects of our electoral process, for example, so that the people are better represented. We have to curb corruption. We have to increase people’s repre-sentation and so on. These changes should be in the direction of improvement and taking these institutions forward, not to weaken and destroy them. There are people in this country who consider the parliamentary system useless or superfluous if they themselves are not elected! This is a strange and narrow selfish argument. Parliament and such other institutions are for the people as a whole, within the parameters of which the political parties have to improve their behaviour.
It is strange that certain parties of the Opposition as well as certain sections of the ruling parties are engaged in open, unabashed and total disruption of the proceedings of Parliament without any mandate to do so from the people. One can understand anger and even some token stoppage or walkout. But continued disruption is totally inadmissible as it injects disruptive behaviour and habit in the system. What are they teaching the people in general and younger generations in particular? Noisy and disruptive behaviour is becoming synonymous with parliamentary proceedings, or rather the absence of it. The Rightwing reactionary as well extremist ‘Left’wing forces only get a golden opportunity to play out and ‘establish’ their anti-democratic views and practice.

This is very dangerous. Recently, we saw several movements claiming to ‘fight’ corruption and these aimed at the very parliamentary institutions; they lost their steam for lack of both economic as well as civic programmes.

It is time that both the civil society and the political one, the voters, the consumers, the labourers, intelligentsia, and people in general, fight to save and improve our extraordinary institutions of democracy as represented by the Parliament, the State Assemblies and others. For this to happen, the MPs, MLAs, other repre-sentatives, and political parties have to them-selves improve and behave democratically.

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