Disruption by the Ruling Party Signals a New Low for India’s Parliament

In the last two weeks, parliament has been witness to majoritarian bullying like never before. The Opposition’s demands for immediate discussion on the Adani scam were bludgeoned into submission by the Treasury benches, who instead demand an apology from Rahul Gandhi.

Jawhar Sircar

Seventy-three years may not be enough to pronounce a judgement on whether parliamentary democracy has worked in India or not. In a democracy, it is the lowest common denominator that prevails, and hence, it is futile to accept only Pericleses in the rough and tumble of the demos.

But it is this same Indian parliament that has managed, without doubt, to bring together under one roof, into some sort of dialogue, the incredibly diverse peoples, ethnicities, and religious denominations. Issues are settled in Sansad through debate – sometimes, a bit too loudly. But let us not forget that some of today’s participants had once favoured the gun rather than talk. In just seven decades, governments and the parliament have, indeed, succeeded in cooling off numerous intractable sectarian and secessionist passions. The first election to the Lower House (Lok Sabha) will go down in history as one of those wonders that only Indians are capable of demonstrating – maybe once or twice in a century.

The state of the Indian parliament today

Currently, however, there is an eerie feeling that it is all over and that the ultimate consensus – which lies at the very heart of parliamentary democracy – is nearing its end. “Disruption is a legitimate form of protest,” Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had thundered from the opposition benches in 2012,  even as his band brought both Houses to unseemly halts, time and again.

But Sansad takes it all in its stride and, in fact, accepts both smooth conduct and disturbance as twin traits. Nevertheless, the treasury bench has never before taken up a systematic plan to ensure that both sessions are stopped from functioning – every day, without fail. The bedlam is so utterly predictable and ruthlessly well-coordinated. It’s been on since March 13 when the re-convened budget session commenced. This self-sponsored chaos ensures that the scandalous charges against Adani are not taken up for discussion at all. People had expected that the judiciary and the legislature investigate the executive’s indulgences and misdemeanours. As parliament screeches to a halt every day, the legislature’s power to investigate the Adani group’s manipulation of the stock market and public policies is log-jammed by parliament itself….