A rejoinder to Jayanthi Natarajan’s “No democracy without Parliment” – Hilda Raja

Parliment House, New DelhiJayanthi Natarajan’s article “No democracy without Parliament” in the Indian Express, 11th Feb 2011, has raised more questions than answers. It has exposed the bias and the prejudicial perception of the author. One must remember that Jayanthi Natarajan was one of the most vociferous of the ‘shouting brigade’ when the Congress was in the Opposition. Has Jayanthi Natarajan since then changed her views because today she sits in the Treasury benches? So with such change positions the perception and views of what is democracy also seem to change drastically.

There is no doubt that Parliament is the essence of democracy. But a democracy is vibrant and robust only with good governance and not only with debates and proceedings in Parliament. Again Parliament becomes meaningful only if it leads to good governance. Gone are the days when debates were meaningful and the MPs came well prepared. These days we find that the major part of the Parliament sessions do not see the presence of even the PM and most often a large number of MPs are also absent. What we have seen during the UPA regime is that there are MPs who have not even uttered a single word one such a person is Mrs Sonia Gandhi who till date has been only a silent spectator. Similarly too Rahul Gandhi has not engaged himself in any debate and discussion. When most of governance and its decisions are done from No 10 Janpath and when Rahul Gandhi can just walk into the PM’s office and get his pet schemes okayed then why Parliament? Why Parliament when Mrs Sonia Gandhi presides over a super Parliament termed as National Advisory Council to advise the PM? Most of the ministers come unprepared so what’s the great take that without Parliament there is no democracy. The major decisions that the government takes are not routed through Parliament but by bypassing it — an example is the nuke deal. It is from the media that one comes to know of the commissions and omissions of the government and the schemes and plans of the government.

Oh yes, the women reservation bill is hanging but it has been there for years and we will end by a mere discussion. People are also fed up with these meaningless discussions.

What is strange is that Jayanthi Natarajan forgets that stalling and blocking Parliament is part of the democratic functioning of an Opposition and is one of the ways to press for action from the government.

Jayanthi NatarajanThe author must remember that had not the Opposition stalled Parliament and compelled the UPA government most of the actions against the scamsters would not have taken place. Singular example is Adimuthu Raja. It is not at though the PM was not aware of A. Raja’s loot only that the PM allowed him to continue looting? Had it not been for the aggressive positioning of the Opposition A. Raja would have continued as a cabinet minister and Parliament would have functioned and Jayanthi Natarajan could smugly state that democracy is functioning because Parliament is functioning.

I think the Congress has misplaced priorities What about the others scams like Adharsh and Common Wealth Games scams to name a couple — all came not only tumbling out with some sort of action taken only because of the Opposition’s shouting and rushing to the well of the House. The author faults Advani for this justification but what had she done under the smiling gaze of Rajiv Gandhi who was mightily pleased that the shouting brigade was shouting and rushing to the well of the House. Did he not justify and did he not find satisfaction in it and in fact encouraged such behaviour?Why this double standards?. When the Congress can indulge in such actions when it was in the Opposition and justify how come the author questions the Opposition now on similar actions?

It is easy to mouth the hollow “zero tolerance to corruption” but arresting it, taking action against it is entirely another aspect. The Congress has the singular tag of being a government with the largest and the biggest scams under it. What does Jayanthi Natarajan expect from the Opposition?

P.J. Thomas (left)Never in the history of parliamentary democracy have we witnessed a government encircled and embattled on all sides with scams. Is this the kind of democracy that we want? So why bother about allowing Parliament functioning; heavens will not fall if Parliament does not function. By the way the Congress appointee P.J. Thomas justifies his appointment because there are 28.60 percent of MPs with criminal records or criminal cases pending against them. Allowing Parliament to function is no big deal if this is the perception of a CVC appointed by the Congress. This is one way of looking at the whole Parliament’s non- functioning.

The other is that stalling Parliament is a legitimate democratic right of the Opposition. Yes, democracy has to function and whose chief responsibility is that, the UPA’s. Why is Parliament been stalled? Because the Opposition wants a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the G2 Spectrum scam. This is the biggest scam since democracy started functioning in India .What is strange is that the UPA instead of yielding to this has refused the JPC. So who is at fault for not allowing Parliament to function. If the UPA wants Parliament to function then let it yield to a JPC. After all the demand for a JPC is no violation, not extra constitutionally and not setting up a precedent. The same Jayanthi Natarajan and company not merely stalled Parliament but even pulled down a government on the Jain Commission report by their sheer lung power and rushing to the well.

Now to act as a votary of democracy and pick at the Opposition to say that the Opposition is responsible for not allowing Parliament to function is a gross misrepresentation of facts. Let the Parliament function — but let there be a JPC is the demand of the Opposition. Why is the Congress adamant in rejecting this demand? Is it afraid of something that will be revealed? If the Congress really believes that democracy has to be saved and that means Parliament functioning it is within its reach: it has only to concede to the demand for the JPC.

Mere functioning of Parliament does not make wholesome democracy. Governance is, and the utility of Parliament functioning must be seen in the end results of what have been passed by Parliament after thorough discussions. It is not just the automatic passing of bills and the budget that makes good governance and meaningful democracy. The tone and tenure of debates — the content of the discussion and the final conclusions arrived — the policies evolved and proposed and passed by Parliament all these count. But under the UPA Parliament has been just a mirage, a kind of routine which does not lead to a vibrant democracy and good governance.

Another area which Jayanthi Natarajan brought out is democracy. She will be forced to agree if she assembles the facts truthfully that there is no democracy worth the name under the UPA and to be specific under Mrs Sonia Gandhi. This is no secret. What you do not have you cannot give. Even Rahul Gandhi has complained about the High Command making decisions. If the Congress party has no inner democracy then how can it stand up and uphold democracy for the country. A handpicked Prime Minister is no great expression of democracy. For democracy there are various variables like the PM must come from the Lok Sabha to be more credible. He must be elected and not nominated. If one has to take each and every constitutional post one will realize that democracy has been demeaned and dented by Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the Congress.

Since Jayanthi Natarajan has mentioned the Bofors JPC boycott by the Opposition one must remember that the JPC then was an eye wash because Mr ‘Clean’ had to be saved and the Italian relative of Mrs Sonia Gandhi Quottrochi had to be saved. No wonder the JPC was packed with majority Congress men when the person involved is the Congress leader what does one expect of such a JPC?And the subsequent events clearly indicate what the Congress was up to in the whole Quottrochi affair.The line is to drawn not where the buck stops at you but when the true spirit of the probe is directed to dig out and establish the truth. This the Congress has never done in any of its governance business. So just repeating that Parliament has to function to prove that we have democracy is a big joke. This is why what Advani stated is true: “sometimes business, not proceedings yield results” Jayanthi Natarajan naturally cannot comprehend this.

Fighting in ParlimentTalk, talk and talk. We Indians are good at it and that is not the litmus test for democracy. So let business be attended to and not just allowing parliament to function. If the government is keen as it makes out ,so is the Opposition also keen that Parliament functions and not just debate and allow proceedings for name sake-then let the government will it-let it concede to the JPC; it is as simple as that and as easy as that. It is within the hands of the Congress and the responsibility of the Congress to allow a JPC so that Parliament can function. Otherwise the odium is on the Congress that it does not want Parliament to function — the meetings with the Opposition leaders are a big tamasha. That the Congress is not eager to allow Parliament to function and hence is rejecting the demand for the JPC is obvious. And thereby it is failing in its primary duty and responsibility to uphold democracy.

Dr. Hilda Raja is a Development Consultant in Gujarat.