The question is why governments shy away from debate or ordering an enquiry when they are in the right. Inevitably, it is the unethical action on the part of any government which gives an opportunity to the opposition parties to pin them down, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey.
Since the beginning of the Monsoon session of parliament, the Opposition parties have succeeded in stalling the functioning of both the Houses and one could only see the opposition members throwing papers , shouting slogans and storming the well of the Houses over the Centre’s agriculture laws and the alleged Pegasus snooping scandal. The government has deplored the unparliamentary behaviour of the opposition and accused the opposition parties of running away from the debate on the floor of the house and of squandering public money worth nearly a hundred crores. The opposition parties claimed that the government is shying away from instituting an enquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee into the Pegasus scandal.
This is not the first time that opposition parties have resorted to this kind of action of refusing to allow the parliament to function smoothly for several weeks. During the past several decades, our Parliament has witnessed many such unruly scenes and constant disruption of proceedings for several weeks- on one pretext or the other. In our parliamentary democracy we have seen those in power today ,sitting in the opposition benches for several decades and those in opposition today sitting in the treasury benches for long periods . On several occasions , on issues like the Bofors gun purchase scandal , 2G scam, Coal scam , Sukhoi purchase scandal, CWG scandal, to name a few ,Parliament was stalled for several weeks causing loss of public money worth hundreds of crores. Naturally the ruling party does not want interruptions in the functioning of parliament whereas the opposition parties use stalling parliament as a constitutional method to pin down the government and ensure that they are heard and not ignored.
If one analyses the reason for these interruptions in parliament in our country, it will be noticed that the primary reason for stalling of parliament for long durations is the refusal by the government of the day to heed the demand for urgent discussion or probe into an issue which opposition thinks vital. The question is why governments shy away from debate or ordering an enquiry when they are in the right. Inevitably, it is the unethical action on the part of any government which gives an opportunity to the opposition parties to pin them down . After all the Constitution of our country created the concept of opposition and they are mandated to find faults in the governments working and highlight the shortcomings in governance so that people become aware of the way the government of the day is working . It is the task of the government to come clean on every issue on which the opposition raises doubts or asks questions. It is ironical that the opposition always demands urgent debate on issues which can give them political mileage and put the government in the dock and the government instead of
allowing for such debates immediately, evades allowing discussions and thus facilitates prolonged interruptions of parliament. This has been the character of all the ruling dispensations irrespective of their hues. For the past several decades- whether Left ,Right or Centre, all party governments behaved in a similar fashion in reacting to issues where they, prima facie, failed to come clean.
It is easy to tackle any issue , answer any question or allow debates if one doesn’t have anything to hide .The same is true for any organisation including governments. If they act as per law , take decisions with only the public interest in mind and perform their duties honestly , they can ward off any challenge posed by opposition parties. It boils down to only one thing- whether the government is acting in an ethical manner and whether larger national and public interest is being served by their actions. Our constitution and the laws demand that all the government functionaries act honesty , with integrity and keep people’s interest foremost. Every government has to pass these tests , irrespective of their liking or disliking it.
Democracy demands rule of law prevail and individuals and their thinking have to subserve this constantly. In our country , our laws do not permit unruly behaviour anywhere , hence that needs to be avoided
every where. We have earned our democracy after a long fought struggle and massive sacrifices. Our forefathers sacrificed their lives so that we enjoy our freedom with full democratic rights. It was the courage and foresight of our forefathers which gave political equality to every citizen of our country in one go unlike most other democracies where people had to struggle for centuries to gain universal franchise. Let’s not lose these gains for petty political squabbles and allow our parliament to function smoothly. Both, the government and the opposition, have to resolve this impasse in the larger interest of our nation and not allow a repeat of this kind of logjam in the future . For this to happen , every government , in the state and centre , present and future , has to act ethically and strictly as per the law of the land and not deviate from this path, come what may. Citizens will have to keep a strict watch on the way their elected representatives behave inside and outside our Parliament and assemblies and teach them a lesson accordingly when election time comes.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary to Government of India)