Manmohan accuses Opposition of derailing democracy

The disrupted monsoon session of Parliament came to an unceremonious end on Friday, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing the Opposition of derailing parliamentary democracy and the BJP announcing a nationwide campaign to end corruption.

The CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury called for the enforcement of a ‘no work, no pay’ policy on MPs, while the BSP’s Mayawati sought a special session for the passage of the Bill to provide for reservation in promotions for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

In a statement, Dr. Singh held the Opposition guilty of disrupting and negating a functioning democracy: “I would like my countrymen and countrywomen to make up their minds, if this is the right way to serve our functioning democracy. We take pride in the fact that we, since independence, have been a practising, functioning democracy. What we have witnessed in this session is a total negation of that, and all right-thinking people… should stand up and unitedly come up with the voice that come what may, Parliamentary institutions must be allowed to function...”

Countering this, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley argued that the BJP had, in fact, sent out a strong message by holding up Parliament. “We are attempting to shake the conscience of this country, which is faced with the serious issue of corruption in the allocation of its natural resources.”

Ms. Swaraj said Parliament had functioned well in the early part of the session and became dysfunctional only after the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report on corruption in the coal blocks allocation was tabled. The BJP initially insisted on Dr. Singh’s resignation, but later she herself told Congress president Sonia Gandhi that the party was willing to discuss Colgate, provided the government cancelled all 142 allotments and ordered an impartial inquiry.

She said the BJP would now launch a ‘sansad to sadak’ (Parliament to the streets) campaign to hold big and small rallies, all the way from the metros to the villages.

Mr. Jaitley termed Coalgate a “textbook case of crony capitalism.”

Multiple problems

The Prime Minister said the Opposition had chosen not to “take advantage of the settled institutional practices dealing with the reports of the CAG.” His government had respect for the CAG, but respect for this institution meant that its findings must be debated at the Public Accounts Committee or on the floor of the House. He pointed out that India faced multiple problems such as rising communal and ethnic tensions and terrorism and Naxalism. “Parliament was not allowed to discuss these very important issues…”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 7:17:32 AM |

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