Winter Session washed out amid Congress-Oppn slugfest on JPC

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 14 2010, 07:00am hrs
The winter sunshine could do little to dispel the chill that set in firmly on the last day of the last session of Parliament in this decade. It slowly dawned on all sides of the political divide, that a dubious record had been set.

For the first time in Indian parliamentary history, a whole session had gone by without any business being transacted. The irony of closing the session on the exact date when Parliament was attacked by gunmen in 2001 also seemed to have no impact as Parliament was under siege this time by the obduracy of both, the government and the Opposition members all those who are elected to make the rules a point that finance minister and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee made when he called it very unfortunate.. he told reporters; MPs are to protect the Constitutional propriety, norms and rules. If the creators themselves violate their own rules, then where is the remedy

Nothing seemed to shake off the ominous feeling of an unhealthy political deadlock, not debate, as the government stuck on stubbornly to its position of no JPC without offering any firm reasoning, and the Opposition too seemed adamant on stalling the business of the House, all the way, almost disregarding the basic Westminster principle of the Opposition no doubt being entitled to have its say but being circumscribed by the logic of the government having its way.

The tone was set in the morning as the Congress President addressed her MPs, attacking the BJP for lecturing the Centre on corruption and asked them to set their own House in order. The Chairman of the NDA, LK Advani, hit back, saying that sometimes no business in the House conveys much more than business being transacted.

In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Meira Kumar chose to characterise herself as having been pained and anguished. Her Buddha-like stoicism for six minutes in the face of severe sloganeering by the Opposition, which she hoped would make a point, almost passed unnoticed and she was forced to call for the ceremonial playing of Vande Mataram , and adjourn the House without even valedictory addresses.

In all, in the House of the People, there was little peoples business. Seven minutes in all were spent on the money Bills, supplementary grants were passed in the din. The Railway Budget saw 4 minutes being spent on it. While the house spent 7 hours and 30 minutes sitting, the time lost due to interruptions and adjournments was 124 hours and 40 minutes. There were 480 starred questions admitted, only 5 were answered orally.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal appeared embittered as he informed reporters outside Parliament that while dialogue was always welcome, no meeting had been fixed to try and resolve the impasse. He came down heavily on the NDA and the Left opposition, especially the BJP for wanting to destabilise the government.

If Meira Kumar chose to express her pain, her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha and the Vice-President minced no words as he was able to ensure the attention of the Elders and make his case, of a session with distinctive features no debates or discussions on matters of public interestno special mentions were laid on the table, no zero hour interventions were sought, no questions were answered orally and no supplementary questions were raised. Most tellingly he remarked; Peace prevailed only when obituaries were read.

The Rajya Sabha passed four appropriation bills, but the House assembled for merely 2 hours and 44 minutes in 23 days.

The Vice-President, who spoke with senior opposition leaders and the PM in attendance, urged all sections of the House to introspect on the record of this session to seek the distinction between dissent, remonstration, agitation and disruption.

For the Opposition, if it was about wishing to queer the pitch to take things to a point that they had reached when Jayprakash Narayan issued a call for Total Revolution, and the elected government of the day had lost confidence, it failed as there was just grandstanding in the House complex and for TV cameras and no mobilisation amongst the people on these issues. There was also no real unity, with the NDA on its own and other smaller parties, while opposing, firmly choosing to keep themselves away from the NDA.

For the government, this session was a communications disaster, with them neither being able to effectively convince people why they were so opposed to a JPC, nor were they able to split the opposition ranks to enable the continuation of business, nor able to convincingly take their allies with them, all three major allies, proving to be more tough to read, mollify or predict than even the Opposition sometimes.