Adjournments throng the upper house of Parliament over reformist bills being proposed by the BJP regime, principally due to protests by the largest opposition party, though not large enough to attain the post of the Leader of Opposition, the Indian National Congress. It would be wrong to single out the Congress as the culprit as oppositions over the years have failed to perform the single most important task meted out to them by the constitution, that of providing constructive criticism and an alternative vision and ideology, if not an alternative government.
The BJP, which has come to power after a decade, introduced the first of many revolutionary bills, the Insurance Bill. It proposed raising the FDI cap to 49% from the current unappealing figure of 26%. The bill that was introduced was initially presented to the house by the erstwhile Congress finance minister P. Chidambaram in 2008. It remained largely unchanged, as the BJP proposed it, from its predecessors’ version. In spite of this, it faced staunch opposition from not only the Congress but also the other flimsy parties present in the house, mostly to make up the numbers.
To hammer the point home, that the Congress must not be singled out, let’s reminisce the time when the BJP was the chief opposition, strong enough to claim the post of the Leader of Opposition, and decided to block the same bill which it has now introduced for reasons known only to the party top brass. The other so-called ‘national parties’ swung the way they thought benefitted them the most leaving the country’s welfare in the hands of a non-existent entity.
The reason, if a government decides to care about people’s welfare; the opposition runs the risk of not occupying the treasury benches for successive elections. Who cares about the country when your own source of livelihood is endangered? In this way, the parties represent wrestlers trapped in a cage. The objective of which is to pull down the opponent as he tries to break the shackles and climb out of the cage just because you are, at the moment, playing catch-up. Thus, one who cares about the welfare of the state becomes the ultimate enemy of the state.
The purpose which the opposition serves in countries like the US and the UK, from whom we have borrowed our political system, is to administer a reality-check to the ruling government and make sure it doesn’t go awry. But the thirst of power has led opposition parties in India to make a mockery of Parliament to ensure that status quo is always maintained, whatever situation it may be, in terms of welfare of the society. A major reason for this is the wide array of competition offered by the regional and flimsy parties who are cunning enough to exploit the populace as and when it suits them.
If a controversial bill has to be passed by the Parliament, it requires coaxing and bribing all the parties involved to ensure that they become the yes-men of the ruling party as long as their numbers are just strong enough. What the country needs is a bipartisan system, one wherein regional bigwigs and satraps hold no bargaining chips and the two major parties look forward to the nation’s welfare. Why must a genuine party (also lacking majority) hop in bed with approved goons?
It’s the first time since the Rajiv Gandhi government that any other party has gained majority in the lower house of the Parliament on its own. The problem is that the upper house, a definite constitutional anomaly today, is not under its control. The BJP cannot pass important bills without the support of its unruly opposition parties who have significant numbers to block any bill in the Rajya Sabha. It was established by the framers of our constitution to prevent hasty legislation. However, today it serves the exact opposite purpose. Today it does the important task of blocking any and every bill concerning the nation’s welfare. It has representatives from states governed by the earlier mentioned flimsy parties who can and will swing any which way to ensure political gains.
Our politics is still ruled by this ugly idea of quid pro quo wherein the ruling party knows that it doesn’t have the majority and must therefore keep the opposition happy in order to stay in the government. When the opposition regains control of the government, it uses the same principle so that it can stay-on for its stipulated five-year term. At the end, it’s the general population that suffers as parties lacking a clear majority enter the house and require back-door deals to stay in power.