Holding Parliament to ransom: The Alice in Wonderland politics of Rahul Gandhi and Anand Sharma

MJ Akbar

The centre of gravity in any democracy is best measured by the credibility of its Parliament, an institution that fuses a core Puritan simplicity with a Catholic electoral horizon. There is position, represented by government. There is opposition. The space in between is occupied by debate. Socrates, famously, established democracy’s philosophical principles when he replaced competition with dialogue.

After six decades of experience, Indian democracy has come to a curious pass. A government insists on discussion over an opposition demand, and opposition rejects debate. Congress, under the elbow-jerk leadership of Rahul Gandhi, wants verdict now, trial later. If you insist on judgment without discussion, what is left to discuss? The mordant joke doing the rounds is that Rahul will do anything to avoid speaking in Parliament.

Parliament proceedings are no longer a closed-door affair, reported and interpreted by a select few from print media. Television cameras have democratised debate to a spectacular degree. Members speak in front of the largest jury in history, in the court of public opinion. By sabotaging debate, Congress is denying the Indian people the opportunity to hear evidence from all sides, and then make up their minds.

Sushma Swaraj has said as many times as she has been asked that she is ready to make a statement in the house so that MPs have the liberty to respond, criticise, analyse or support her case on merits. It is Congress, for reasons unfathomable, that refuses to engage. If Congress is dissatisfied with Swaraj’s explanation, it can mount a counteroffensive in the house or elsewhere, before a watching and listening nation.

If Congress feels that it has not got satisfaction from this parliamentary process, it can consider other options. After all, the life of this Parliament is not going to end this week, or this year or next year. There is time enough. So why does Rahul hold Parliament to ransom even before a preliminary requirement of democracy is underway?

Congress is not talking of a boycott of only one debate. It wants to shut Parliament as an institution unless a cabinet minister and two chief ministers resign. This is Alice in Wonderland politics: “Off with his head!” said the Queen. Why? “Because I say so.”

Perhaps the truth is simple: You shout instead of talking only when you have nothing to say.

The argument one hears from Congress MPs has, in essence, two parts. One was articulated by Congress front-bencher Anand Sharma in the Times of India last week, that Congress cabinet ministers and a chief minister resigned despite being, at least in the Sharma morality play, “innocent”. Let us examine this proposition. Why did Congress ask its ministers to resign if they were innocent? Why should anyone who is innocent be punished? That is utterly weak governance.

The plainer fact is that no one was innocent. One cabinet minister was reprimanded by the Supreme Court for altering evidence. A second had to go when his close relative was caught making money. They did not resign because of mere allegations. They went only when proof appeared in the public domain through a competent process.

The second part is that BJP also stalled Parliament. But BJP only did so towards the end of the second term, when public anger at scams had climbed to boiling point.

If you recall massive scams like 2G or coal mines or Adarsh, it took years of investigation before guilt was established, through constitutional instruments like CAG, which established loss of revenue running into hundreds of thousands of crores.

The telecommunications rip-off occurred during the first UPA term, as the Radia tapes showed; the confrontation came only later in the second term after the CAG report, particularly when senior Congress intellectuals like Kapil Sibal insisted that there was “zero loss”.

The investigative process in the Lalit Modi case, as any check with the courts will confirm, is being intensified only now. Memory is not as short as some would wish it to be. UPA filed nothing more than a FEMA case against Modi and made little effort to get the accused back after he had disappeared to London.

UPA was in power when Modi took the flight to London, and did little to stop his departure. Today, in the Vyapam matter, the high court has been given charge of investigations, and is satisfied that both STF and SIT are doing their work with integrity.

Congress asked for CBI intervention; the government agreed very quickly. Contrast this with Rahul Gandhi’s inability to see anything wrong with the extortion of money from liquor barons, recorded on video, by an aide of Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat, or the silence about Himachal Pradesh’s Applegate controversy, where Vir Bhadra Singh’s apples became pricier than those grown in the Garden of Eden.

Governments today have to respond fast, and transparently, not because any opposition party wants this to happen, but because India’s public opinion will not tolerate any cover-up. Our citizens constitute the most stringent judiciary in history. If Indian democracy is safe, it is because of the vigilance of citizens, not the outbursts of politicians.

The writer is an author, editor and national spokesperson of BJP

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/thesiegewithin/holding-parliament-to-ransom-the-alice-in-wonderland-politics-of-rahul-gandhi-and-anand-sharma/

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s