ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Circus is in Town

Bereft of any meaningful vision, political parties have reduced politics to gladiatorial contests.

Much was promised of the Lokpal Bill in the winter session of Parliament. While a toothless bill was indeed passed by the Lok Sabha, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was unable to have even this endorsed in the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the session. Did this have to do with the inability of the UPA to win support in the upper house or was the Congress-led government really not interested in getting the legislation enacted? For that matter, no political party – other than the left – seemed keen on a strong anti-corruption law. The Lok Sabha even failed to provide constitutional status to the Lokpal because of opportunistic opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The flurry of legislative action – including on the Citizens Right to Grievance Redressal Bill and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill – has to do with the UPA wanting to dent the growing support for the anti-corruption movements, particularly that of Anna Hazare and his group. Not enough attention has been paid to debate, deliberation and consultations and, not surprisingly, all political parties, as well as “civil society” groups, have concentrated on scoring points. While the Lokpal debate saw an element of decorum if not substance, the overall conduct of Parliament during the winter session was in keeping with the recent trend of debasing the apex institution of parliamentary democracy. Disruptions and adjournments were the norm rather than the exception during the first half of the winter session. All in all, this has been the fourth parliamentary session which has been substantially wrecked by the opposition’s determination to not let the government transact normal business. The government has contributed its bit, for instance, by taking its ill-fated decision on retail on the eve of the winter session. The disaster that Parliament has become in recent years is symptomatic of Indian parliamentary democracy today. India’s political parties have reduced political contestation to a gladiatorial fight and converted Parliament into a circus.

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