Dictation transcription – The fact that the entire monsoon session of Parliament was washed out, or that we weren’t as bothered by this fact as we should have been. What can we do about it anyway? We didn’t like the previous government, under which Parliament had ceased to work. So we elected a new majority government. Now even this government can’t seem to make Parliament work. What are we to do?
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Some blame the Congress: they disrupted proceedings, so it is their fault. Others point fingers at the BJP for shielding its ministers. Proving the other party wrong seems to preoccupy us more than the fact that an entire session of Parliament went waste.
We should be worried. If India just needed status quo in its policies and laws, the disruption would have mattered less. However, India is nowhere near the nothing-needs-to-change stage. We haven’t had a strong round of fundamental economic reforms since 1991. We don’t have a 10% GDP growth rate, something we need to fulfill the aspirations of millions of young people. Doing business in India is still extraordinarily difficult; until that eases, a spurt in job growth won’t happen. Some important bills are directly in front of us, notably the land acquisition and GST bills. Others are in the pipeline. It is a matter of extreme urgency that these bills are passed. Yet the two main parties cannot come to a common ground on this.
What can we do? Well, the BJP, the Congress and all of us citizens need to change a few things if we don’t want to be stuck in this deadlocked democracy forever.
First, it is in the best interest of the party in power, the BJP, to make Parliament work. The government is new and still doesn’t have a corrupt image, despite the current controversies. However, what it doesn’t need is an image of ineffectiveness — a government that either can’t manage or cannot work with others. What could it have done differently? First, even before the session started, the BJP could have addressed the issues related to Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan better. It chose to remain silent. Yes, these controversies were not comparable to the CWG or 2G scams. However, there were infractions and judgment errors in Lalit Modi’s case.
A simple way to test this is to ask: would the government do it again? If the answer is no, then a clarification at least was needed, if not a resignation. In Vyapam, there was a need to assure a fair inquiry. If the BJP had accepted all this fast, it could have come across as humble, receptive and responsive. More important, it could have played the controversy on its own terms and defused the Congress attack. Eventually, the BJP had to relent and offer multiple explanations, including Swaraj’s, in Parliament. By then it was too late, and the party seemed to have acted after being pushed into a corner. The BJP needs to play on the front foot, even when it is about its own mistakes. As an aside, it also needs to go easy on the Gandhi family bashing. They lost already, and the jokes are old.
The Congress is also at fault. In politics, any weakness of the opponent is fair game. The current BJP controversies were a tantalizing opportunity and it did get Congress attention and headlines. The party punched far above its 44-member strength. However, there is only so much politics one should play. The Congress should have done the right thing and let the essential bills pass. Sure, attack your political opponent, but don’t harm the country.
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