The Congress on Monday dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call a special session of Parliament and allow debates on the issues the Opposition is agitated about if he is really committed to a thriving democracy.
“Call a special session and allow debates on the issues raised by the Opposition parties,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said, responding to the BJP allegation that the Opposition parties that boycotted Sunday’s inauguration of the new Parliament building had thereby shown disrespect for democracy.
“Parliament is not about a grand building; Parliament existed before. It is about debate and accountability. Let’s see his (Modi’s) true intent,” Sharma said.
He underscored that no debate on the Chinese intrusion had been allowed in Parliament in three years.
“In 1962, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had called a special session of Parliament in the midst of war with China on the request of a lone MP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Sharma said.
“Chinese troops are sitting inside our territory and the Prime Minister is not accountable? Why has a debate not been allowed? A good (Parliament) building without a vibrant democracy means nothing.”
The government, the BJP and the electronic media have battered the Opposition parties that boycotted the inauguration, which was marked by religious rituals, razzmatazz and lofty speeches with the Prime Minister as the cynosure.
The Opposition parties boycotted the event accusing Modi of smothering discussion and dissent inside and outside Parliament, and of insulting President Droupadi Murmu by refusing to let her inaugurate the building.
While all critical references in Parliament to businessman Gautam Adani and his relations with Modi have been expunged, the government has thwarted every attempt across sessions to discuss the Chinese intrusion.
Even the allegations of stock market manipulation and accounting fraud against the Adani group were not allowed to be discussed. Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge used the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to raise the issue.
While the Opposition has struggled to get the unemployment crisis and the price rise debated, repeated requests to discuss the farmers’ movement were rejected.
Addressing a news conference in Mumbai as part of a campaign to highlight the Modi government’s failures after nine years in power, senior Congress leader P.Chidambaram said: “National security is the most important issue today but the government hasn’t allowed a debate on China for three years."
Chidambaram said: “The reach of Indian patrols has been curtailed. It appears China has not yielded an inch in the numerous rounds of talks at different levels. The China-Pakistan axis has become stronger but Parliament is in the dark over the actual situation.”
Chidambaram also spoke about the danger facing Indian democracy.
“There is rising concern whether the country is being governed according to the Constitution. No one believes that, under the NDA government, India (is living) up to the lofty constitutional objectives of liberty, equality and fraternity,” Chidambaram said.
“Social strife, communal conflict, intolerance, hate, fear and deep divisions among the people mar our lives every day. The freedom of speech and expression of citizens has been severely curbed through intimidation and slapping false cases. Bulldozerjustice has replaced natural justice.”
He added: “The Modi government has spread its assumed legislative footprints into subjects that are the legitimate concerns of state governments. It has curtailed the legislative and executive powers of states. The governors of non-BJP states are acting like Viceroys.
“Parliamentary rules and conventions are violated. Debate in Parliament is becoming rare and even calls for vote by division on important bills have been brushed aside.
“Legislation (is) pushed through without discussion and bypassing scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees. The central government’s agencies have been deployed to destabilise state governments through false cases, threats of investigation and arrests.
“There is scant respect for the verdicts of courts, including the Supreme Court. Institutions that are the independent pillars of democracy have been weakened or subordinated to serve the ends of the central government.
“While there is an appearance of democracy, the tree of democracy has been hollowed out. The aim of these excesses is to bring the states and 140 crore people under one omnipotent and omnipresent central government.
“The danger ahead is centralism as we have seen in some countries. Let me caution the people: if that day dawns, it will be the end of federalism.”