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The Chaos in Parliament, Explained


Chaos has erupted in the parliament over Adani, Gandhi issues. Credit : English Jagran


A few days ago, Amit Shah quoted Indira Gandhi- from when she was on a visit to England after the emergency. She famously said “I won't say anything about my country. Here I am an Indian.” Her grandson Rahul Gandhi clearly did not pay heed to the former Prime Minister and having committed the mistake she so desperately sought to avoid, has found himself at the center of the Lok Sabha’s (Lower House) standstill.


The 2nd half of the parliament’s budget session commenced after a month-long recess midway through March. Since it has been plagued by demands from both sides. The BJP-led government has been pressing for Rahul Gandhi to apologise for his remarks in the United Kingdom, where he delivered a lecture at Cambridge and interacted with media, think tanks, etc. On the other hand, the Congress-lead opposition is demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee over the Hindenburg Report’s allegations on Adani companies. The failure to accommodate these demands has led to disruptions on a daily basis within the parliament. The opposition continues to shout slogans like ‘Modi-Adani bhai bhai’, and ‘We demand JPC’ as they desperately try to somewhat reverse the absolute abolishment of free speech and democracy that Kharge claims to be happening.


All this mayhem has resulted in the Budget for FY 2023-24 being passed in the Lok Sabha without discussion. The final seating lasted a meager 12 minutes. Let’s dissect both sides to the tale and the ultimate result of the rushed budget being passed.


The BJP-lead side


The ruling party has a fair share in the parliamentary standstill. What are their ‘demands’? An apology from Rahul Gandhi over his comments in the United Kingdom over India. Numerous times over the last week, they have brought up the need for an apology with the defence minister and Prime Minister stating his comments urge foreign intervention in internal matters and that they insult India in a foreign nation respectively.


The question is, do they? No. Take a look for yourself. The comments in question have been narrowed down to a few controversial remarks that have been subject to scrutiny and debate.


‘Comments’ Set 1



“Look, first of all, this is our problem (erosion of democratic institutions under Modi); it is an internal problem and it is India’sproblem and the solution is going to come from inside, it is not going to come from outside. However, the scale of democracy in India means that democracy in India is a global public good. It impacts way further than our boundaries,”


“If Indian democracy collapses, in my view, democracy on the planet suffers a very serious, possibly fatal blow. So, it is important for you too. It is not just important for us. We will deal with our problem, but you must be aware that this problem is going to play out on a global scale. It is not just going to play out in India and what you do about it is, of course, up to you. You must be aware of what is happening in India - the idea of a democratic model is being attacked and threatened,”



These statements lead to the accusation that Gandhi is inviting foreign intervention when all Rahul really did was tell the western world’s largest powers that they have ignored the collapse of Indian democracy and inform them that the consequences of an Indian democratic falling will be global.


‘Comments’ Set 2


“Everyone knows and it’s been in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure, is under attack, right. I am an opposition leader in India and we are navigating that space. What is happening is that the institutional framework which is required for a democracy – Parliament, free press, the judiciary – just the idea of mobilisation, just the idea of moving around…these are all getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of democracy. In the Constitution, India is described as a Union of states and that Union requires a negotiation and a conversation. This is increasingly coming under threat.”


Along with this, Gandhi also brought up the fact that controversial topics like the farmers’ protests/laws , Chinese military disruption at borders, etc. weren’t allowed to be discussed in the parliament. Gandhi also attacked the RSS- calling them fascist and guilty of capturing and influencing India’s basic institutions like the Judiciary, Election Commission, media, etc. He went on to explain that the reason the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ took place was to communicate with the people without the involvement of these biassed institutions.


These comments were taken by the BJP to be an insult to India. BJP’s deep roots in the RSS, coupled with Modi’s criticism at an international stage close to the 2024 elections are 2 of the major reasons Gandhi’s comments have drawn such substantial criticism from the BJP. These statements were synonymous with his past statements but to a new international audience. While the opposition leader has been criticised for his statements internationally in the past, and shown again and again his open arms to attacks, this time, it’s different.


The BJP has made it their mission to tarnish his image and reputation, calling the whole parliament to a standstill over his comments. They disallowed him from talking in the Parliament over the last week despite letters from Rahul Gandhi to the Lok Sabha Speaker: requesting the speaker to allow him to talk about the accusations surrounding his comments in the UK. These letters were denied quite ironically, as those very comments that the BJP took offence to, talk about the opposition’s inability to talk about matters of concern in the parliament. And this is where the Congress drew its own line.



The Congress-Lead Side


Despite its rapidly dampening political might, the congress along with its fellow opposition parties has taken a strong stance in forming a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the Adani row. Unlike the BJP’s demand for an apology over statements made by Rahul Gandhi, this demand is against a researched and documented controversy.


The Congress President rightly pointed out that the BJP-led NDA will have a majority in this committee which is why their hesitation in creating such a committee is quite worrying. He went on to say that the prime minister Modi-led BJP has stayed silent on Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, and Mehul Choski, all those who have fled the nation with crores and crores of rupees. The Congress leaders& workers have protested in large numbers around Delhi asking for the JPC. Several congress leaders have been detained by the police as the centre inexplicably continues to avoid the Adani topic and deny the opposition’s demands.


If the hypothetical JPC is formed, it will be dominated by the NDA. If it finds nothing out of the ordinary, the opposition will be embarrassed. And if it does supposedly, surely the government-forming coalition has nothing to hide? Isn’t transparency on a matter which caused huge losses to national wealth essential?


Despite this, the NDA has ignored the topic, effectively disallowing a JPC. Their actions only fuel the questions and accusations surrounding the Modi government’s role in rapidly increasing Adani’s income.


Along with the immobility on the JPC issue, as mentioned previously, Rahul Gandhi was also denied permission to talk in parliament and provide a personal explanation despite the provision to potentially do so. Together, these have become the opposition’s main problems and from their side of the standstill. Without either being granted, they have refused to continue with regular parliamentary proceedings. The BJP has once again utilised a small distraction in Rahul Gandhi’s comments, and upscaled its magnitude to deviate from an attacking opposition’s quite valid concerns and requests (JPC). Their distraction has shut down opposition voices yet again, ignored democratic transparency, conveniently kept the NDA safe, and shot down both opposition demands with 1 stance. And after all of this, what’s the net outcome? An absolute standstill in the budget session.


The Case of the Rushed Budget


Amid the chaos, the opposition’s heavy sloganeering, and parliamentary ruckus, on the 23rd of March, the House passed the budget to the Rajya Sabha without discussion- all within 12 minutes. Since the 2nd half began on the 13th of March, not a single day has gone by without disruption of some form over oneof the aforementioned problems/demands. The budget has to be passed by both houses by the 31st of March, but this was one of the rare instances where it passed the lower house without debate and discussion.


On Thursday, all of the ministry's demands for grants were passed after being put through guillotine. All of the opposition’s suggested amendments were rejected after conducting a voice vote. A voice vote is when the speaker makes an approximate guess on if the ‘ayes’ were louder or the ‘noes.’ The Union Budget was then passed with all 64 official amendments of Sitharaman’s budget.


Immediately afterward, the session was adjourned till Monday, as the mayhem continued.


Conclusion


Aside from a Budget of 45 lakh crore being passed so hurriedly, this fiasco shows us how constrained our opposition has become. Legitimate questions, the primary job of the opposition, have become worthless. It’s either the NDA’s way or chaos. A few days ago, Rahul Gandhi was convicted of defaming the Modi surname in a 2019 case in Surat. Within 24 hours, the Lok Sabha speaker had quite conveniently disqualified him. Such prompt and upscaled action drew criticism not only from the congress, but from other prominent leaders like Kejriwal. There is a clear goal to dampen voices that grow too loud, and the next few weeks will tell us if they have been successful in silencing them yet again.

 

Nehal Singhal



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