Congress relishes another washout!
As the nation stands at the threshold of New Year 2016, its disappointment driven by the political class has reached a stage where it legitimately questions if democracy still remains the right choice for its governance. The warring politicians, more particularly the Congress leaders, have become shamelessly immune even to the public outrage that they confront every now and then. After wasting the Winter Session of Parliament, months after they had wasted the Monsoon Session, our law-makers don't look repentant over the improprieties they keep committing defiantly, belying the people's expectations
What is wrong, then, if the countrymen today send fie on this aberrant Congress-led Opposition, which is hell-bent on pulling the govt's sails down, wholly unconcerned about the whopping losses they have caused to the national exchequer and stalled the reform process from going on track? Narendra Modi-led governing side, too, failed to humour the Opposition, even though it offered to discuss and accommodate the Opposition's major points of contentions identified in every key Bill. Each minute of parliamentary engagement costs the tax-payer Rs 29,000 and a day washed out without business means a loss of Rs two crore. What a set of irresponsible law-makers we have !
However, even the ruling side has to admit that it lacked the political will, strategy and strength to effectively score over the adamant rivals, especially when the latter have lost credibility in the eyes of the public and look foolishly fighting the war of attrition on issues which could have been take up later without resorting to disruption of Parliament. But what could the govt do if the Congress and its new-found allies wanted to fight it right on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, where the govt doesn't have sufficient numbers to carry its legislations ? One wishes the govt had the numbers to prove its mettle !
It looks so disappointing that important measures, all considered vital for the nation's economic growth and development, were not even discussed. The winter session has just been a repeat of the Monsoon Session, with even the critical Goods and Services Tax Bill, so important to launch the projected reforms, is irresponsibly left lying in the cold. This measure, that promises to streamline the taxation process, subsuming different taxes and broadening the tax base, when adopted, will add up to1.5% to the country's GDP growth. With consecutive legislative failures of Parliament, it's not possible now to roll out the epoch-making comprehensive tax law by the beginning of the new financial year. Although the GST measure was initiated by the Manmohan govt and now has broad consensus, the obstructionist attitude of the Opposition has despicably moiled it, for which there is no explanation.
It's painful to observe that while the Lok Sabha, where NDA parties have absolute majority, cleared 11 Bills, the Rajya Sabha just passed five, that too under tremendous public pressure generated for the Juvenile Justice Bill which makes it possible to try 16-year-old and above offenders involved in heinous crimes as adults. Eight new measures were introduced in the Lok Sabha, including one for insolvency and bankruptcy. The Winter Session, that started on Nov 27, had eight pending Bills before the Lok Sabha and 59 before the Rajya Sabha. Vice President Hamid Ansari had tried to break the logjam by holding an all-party meeting to impress upon the MPs not to stay wayward and, instead, transact some business at the session's fag-end, at least to save face of the august House.
Before the Chairman adjourned the Rajya Sabha sine die on Wednesday, he pulled up the errant MPs, especially the irrepressible ones who had held the House hostage and pointed out in no uncertain terms that their conduct was shocking and unacceptable throughout the session. He observed : "Vehemence in language or behaviour resulting in obstruction of proceedings, apart from interruption and neglect of listed agenda, also results in violation of the privileges of individual members themselves. It reflects adversely on the parliamentary process and our commitment to it." The Chairman reminded the members : "Three weeks ago, on December 1, the Rajya Sabha solemnly committed itself to the principles and ideals of the Constitution…A functioning legislature is an essential concomitant of these principles; disruptions amount to their negation. The record of this session belies this commitment in good measure."
For the lawmakers, however, condemnation of their conduct apparently means nothing. A young Congress MP, who appeared to be too vociferous and disruptive during the session, told this scribe this morning on phone: "The party won't withdraw its loud protests in and outside Parliament, come what may. We are determined to teach BJP a lesson...Our brief is clear, we will make them bend." Is he trying to menacingly convey that even the Budget Session would have dark clouds hovering over the Rajya Sabha? One fails to understand why the members, who enjoy privileges they don't deserve in relation to their performances, are now crying for higher salaries, allowances and more privileges. On the contrary, there should be pay-cuts for absentee, non-performing and disrupting MPs.
A wholly demoralized Congress, with just 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, scripted its strategy of meaningless disruptions and protests, drawing in some insignificant charges of corruption and impropriety, knowing it too well that these would not stand ground on scrutiny. If the Monsoon Session was wasted on the Lalit Modi allegations and Vyapam scam, the Winter Session has been washed out on the issue of ‘intolerance' debate, charges and counter-charges on National Herald and the Delhi Cricket Association 'scams'. In the midst of this internecine political war, Parliament and its projected legislative business has gravely suffered, as has suffered the govt's image and its economic agenda, stuck as it remains in the parliamentary logjam.
The people of the country, who gave an unprecedented mandate to Modi-led NDA, hoping that its leader would replicate his Gujarat track record of success in Delhi, are within their right to ask the PM : " Where is that great development you had promised?" The nation will also ask the Congress-led Opposition : "You had been punished for your poor performance, reckless impositions and innumerable scams. Why, then, are you showing the audacity of obstructing the path of national development, when the Modi regime has all its progressive policies in place?" I think the ruling side has the answer, the Opposition has not!
Why? Considering that the burden of expectations on Modi was much more than was on any of his predecessors after Nehru, achievements of his govt may look moderate. But given the mighty obstructions he has faced from his political rivals, his govt has done pretty well. Significantly, the Modi regime looks more visible and transparent than was any other govt in the past. After Modi came to power, the economy has looked up significantly despite many roadblocks. India has registered a 12-place jump in this year's World Bank report index on ease of doing business. On economic competitiveness too, the country has done even better, marching up 16 places after the 5-year decline during the Manmohan regime. Besides, FDI has also gone noticeably up. The system of federalism has been strengthened. Ameliorative insurance schemes, among others, have been introduced for the common men. With all that and much more to the NDA credit, can the Congress party that presided over a corrupt regime, really explain its conduct?