The country is celebrating 60th anniversary of its first session of Parliamentary democracy in sovereign India. Despite facing many ups and downs, the parliamentary tradition, which kicked off 60 years ago (on May 13, 1952) with the holding of first meeting in the House under the stewardship of first government led by Jawaharlal Nehru, has become an ideal for a democratic establishment. Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, while addressing the first session of the House assured that the Parliamentary system would resolve all issues. His belief proved right. The Parliamentary proceeding is as significant as it was during its first session. However, it is felt that the efficacy and gracefulness of the Parliamentary proceeding have been affected. The duration of Parliamentary session is continuously shrinking. In 1952 there were as many as 103 sessions of the House recorded, while in 2011 only 73 sessions. This situation prevails when the country is facing myriads of challenges. Earlier, there used to be a debate on every bill but now a new trend has cropped up where the bill is handed over to the standing committee before it gets passed in the House. So, the debate on the bill during the session has become mere a formality.
There has been a long history of meaningful debates in the Parliamentary sessions. There are many statesmen like Jawaharlal Nehru, Ram Manohar Lohia, Madhu Limaye, Piloo Mody, NC Banerjee, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, George Fernandes, Somnath Chatterjee who gave new dimension to the Parliamentary sessions and debates. Their words were not only heard with attention, rather ruling-opposition leaders used to get inspired to change their viewpoints. The art of giving brilliant speech seems to be on the wane and most of the time ruckus and din disrupts the Parliamentary sittings.During past few years, the situation has become so worst that a whole session of the Parliament goes in vain only because of deadlock between ruling party and opposition. Ideally it is supposed to have a serious debate inside the house over important bills or the issues concerned to the national interests and the members are expected to take a call over such issues as per their sagacity and discretion, but now it seems that there is no scope left for a meaningful debate in the house because the members are not ready to rise above their party line. The habits of the members have demeaned the relevance of Parliamentary debates because on the onset of debate over issues it is understood what will be the decision of the parties and their members. Given this situation, the relevance of the Parliamentary debates is being questioned.
It is not proper that the political parties decide their stand in the house prior to participating in debate over a certain issue. However, the level of debate in the Parliament might have deteriorated, both the ruling and opposition parties are well aware of the fact that by raising their decibel levels over a certain issue in the house, they can make the common man realize about their serious concerns towards interests of the people. In their bids to enchant the people, the parties leave no stone unturned to stigmatize their political adversaries. The parties can call such acts as a part of the democratic process, but they need to ponder that whether it proper to use Parliament to tarnish the image of their political opponents. It is known that the proceedings of the Parliament are disrupted over trivial issues. Due to this act the precious time of the Parliament is wasted and the common man is also forced to feel unpleasant that the representatives elected by them are not serious about the problems being faced by the nation.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Parliament we can not overlook the fact that what kind of debate had taken place in both the houses of the Parliament over the issue of Lokpal. Though, the Parliament had agreed to frame a strong and effective law to fight corruption after the movement of Anna Hazare for early passage of Lokpal bill, but because of the disagreement between ruling and opposition parties, the matter is still lying pending. A long debate had taken place in both the houses of the Parliament over this issue and all those who participated in the debate stressed on the need to frame a strong and effective law to combat corruption, but unfortunately the bill could not get through the Rajya Sabha. This has made the common people realise that there is a large gap between promises and deeds of the political parties. The Lokpal bill has not only exposed the reality of the Parliamentary system of the country but it has also posed a question mark on the relevance of the sessions and debates in the Parliament.
In the age of information, it has not only become easier for the people of the country to receive news through media but it also stimulates a nationwide debate on various issues. In the wake of this fact, when the political parties begin a debate on such burning issues after almost one month or more, then such debates are having no impact on the minds of people. As we are a democratic nation and it is obvious to debate on the pertinent issues in the Parliament, but it is equally important for our Parliamentary representatives in the changed scenario to contemplate over their relevance.
Several issues will be discussed during special session of the Parliament on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Parliamentary system, but at the same time it will be interesting to know whether such debates and discussions are leading to any solution. The way the alliance politics is gaining prominence in our Parliamentary system is really an important issue as it is becoming apparently predominant in our political system. Besides, it is also required to introspect over what kind of politicians are being elected and how are they elected. Actually the vote bank politics has given birth to a lot of deformities in our electoral system. The politicians who usually count on vote bank equations are easily getting elected. Isn’t it pertinent for our Parliamentarians to pledge on the occasion of diamond jubilee of the establishment of the Parliamentary system in the country to carry forward the electoral and political reforms? It is possible to make this historical chapter memorable by adopting the abovesaid method.
(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on May 13, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)