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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Empty House: Editorial on suspension of MPs and Modi government’s bid for Opposition-free Parliament

India’s federal edifice would come under further strain with this bloodless coup on the Opposition. This, in turn, has ominous implications for policymaking and public welfare

The Editorial Board Published 20.12.23, 07:24 AM
Amit Shah

Amit Shah File Photo

Deliberations are the beating heart of democracy. What gives parliamentary democracy its special — precious — flavour is the nature of such deliberations: the Opposition asks searching questions that an elected government, according to parliamentary convention, is expected to answer. As many as 78 parliamentarians from the Opposition were rewarded for doing their duty — demanding a statement from the Union home minister on the recent breach of security in Parliament — with suspension on Monday by the Narendra Modi government which, ironically, likes to parrot its commitment to the democratic ethos. Shockingly, the figure rose to 141 by the end of Tuesday. This bid for an Opposition-mukt House on the part of the government has also been given a novel explanation by the parliamentary affairs minister: the suspended parliamentarians, he said, had disregarded the Speaker’s pleas and violated the consensus on not waving placards in the new Parliament.

But parliamentary democracy is best served by the spirit of dissent. The Opposition is not only well within its right to demand an explanation from the Union home minister but it must also be remembered that the charge of ‘undignified’ conduct that Mr Modi’s government has slapped the Opposition with can be attributed to the former’s strategy to shield the prime minister and the home minister repeatedly from legitimate queries. The Opposition is being vilified by the powers that be for lowering the dignity of the House. But the dignity of the temple of democracy is not upheld by the Union home minister addressing concerns regarding Parliament’s security to the media but not to parliamentarians, nor by the weaponisation of the rhetoric of decorum by an authoritarian government that loses no opportunity to choke both dissent and defiance. In this, Parliament mirrors Mr Modi’s New India where resistance against the government, be it by people or people’s representatives, is trampled upon. India’s federal edifice would come under further strain with this bloodless coup on the Opposition. This, in turn, has ominous implications for policymaking and public welfare. The absence of critical scrutiny from the Opposition — yet another imperative for robust democratic functioning — would make it easier for the government to push through bills. The prime minister had described the new Parliament as a symbol of a new beginning. The dark contours of that dawn are now visible.

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