Indian Parliament in August 2010:
Telling Images of a Shocking Reality
Thanks to climate change, monsoon in India has of late become increasingly erratic. In some parts, it reaches late, in many areas it never shows up. Delhi has its wettest August, Bihar and Jharkhand get the third successive drought. But monsoon or no monsoon, nothing can disturb the annual ritual of monsoon session of Parliament.
Predictably enough, this year the monsoon session began on a tumultuous note. Proceedings were stalled for days on end over the issue of rising prices – unquestionably the most explosive issue of the day. But the government’s ‘bomb disposal squad’ which never manages to defuse a bomb in real life succeeded in defusing the parliamentary bomb with magical precision. The bang over the issue of voting on price rise ended with the whimper of a parliamentary resolution expressing concern over ‘inflationary pressure’ on the economy. After the popular high of a powerful ‘Bharat Bandh’ on July 5, we saw the parliamentary low of a tame surrender by the opposition!
A similar thing had happened earlier during the budget session. On April 27, there was another Bharat Bandh called by more than a dozen opposition parties, but when voting took place on cut motions we saw two parties that had sponsored the bandh – the RJD and the SP – conveniently run away from the ‘trouble’ of voting against the government. This time round, it was the turn of the BJP to take the lead in unmasking itself. On the July 5 bandh day, the BJP had led the charge seeking to project itself as the rallying centre of a pan-opposition unity; in Parliament it took the lead in letting the government off the hook.
The RJD and SP have of course once again provided considerable comic relief. These parties that never bothered to demand any hike in MNREGA wages for the rural workers who bear the brunt of rising prices were particularly vocal in bargaining for a massive jump in the salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament. Holding a mock parliament inside parliament, Mulayam Singh Yadav announced the opposition’s own ‘government’ with Lalu Prasad as its PM, BJP leader Gopinath Munde as the Speaker and himself as the ‘manager’! While the MPs got a hefty hike in salary, allowance and pension, the deflation of the famous prime ministerial ambition of the Lalu-Mulayam duo is surely not to be missed.
The exact contours of the Congress-BJP or Government-Opposition deal will perhaps emerge only gradually. But if we join the dots that are already visible, a picture surely begins to take shape. Narendra Modi has been let off the hook in the Amit Shah case, the roaring CWG controversies have suddenly been silenced by an invisible waving of the ‘Queen’s Baton’ and the Nuclear Liability Bill is now all set to be passed with a clever play of words. While the country will bear the cost and consequences of any nuclear accident, private suppliers and operators will make merry, and the law will argue endlessly over the ‘intent’ of the supplier instead of fixing any concrete liability!
Meanwhile, the continuing killings by security forces in Kashmir hardly evoke any murmur in Parliament. The government never ceases to claim Kashmir as an integral part of India, but the blood flowing on the streets of Kashmir is never recognised as Indian enough to merit any discussion in India’s Parliament. The Prime Minister answers Kashmir’s cry for an urgent political solution with yet another tired economic package and the Home Ministry releases 2008 images of Taliban-type terror in Kashmir to counter the undeniable current reality of an unprecedented mass upsurge in the valley.
Seldom has Parliament appeared as disconnected from the reality of the country and its people as in August 2010, the month of 63rd anniversary of India’s independence.