NILOFAR SUHRAWARDY - Unruly, rowdy behaviour, making noise and not allowing any work to get down is sadly becoming an intrinsic part of Indian political culture.

If this has made itself almost a prominent part of parliamentary politics, it is indeed a shame. The fact that the monsoon session of parliament concluded after functioning for less than a week is just one example of this hard reality. The parliamentary proceedings were paralysed as opposition parties were demanding resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over irregularities in coal block allocations. The scam, now known as coal-gate, has allegedly cost the exchequer a loss of more than 40 billion dollars.

The opposition parties have the right to question the government on serious issues such as coal-scam. After all, as elected legislators it is duty of all members of parliament to scrutinise functioning of the government. In essence, this is how a parliamentary government is expected to function. The hard fact that opposition parties did not allow parliament to even function also indicates that these legislators failed to live up to their democratic and parliamentary responsibilities. The Indian prime minister is not expected to hand in his resignation simply on demand of opposition parties or of any self-acclaimed leader. He holds this office on the strength of support of majority of legislators in the house. It is, indeed, stunning that opposition parties led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not exercise their legislative authority in keeping with democratic principles of the Indian Constitution.

The past two years have been witness to the BJP giving great importance to exciting political frenzy outside parliament against the government on corruption issues. This is clearly suggestive of the BJP trying its luck in winning the public support against the Congress-led coalition government. If the BJP is seriously concerned about ousting the government, why hasn’t it given any importance to exercising its political right to vote against it in parliament? The BJP is well aware that it is not going to gather sufficient votes to succeed in defeating the Congress on the floor of the house. Therefore, a defeat would be equivalent to the BJP making a mockery of its own political strategy against the government. Thus, the BJP has deliberately indulged in rowdy behaviour in parliament so that it gains more time in making noises against the Congress through demonstrations, rallies and other such moves.

It is an irony that the BJP is giving importance to only one aspect of India’s political democracy. The party has the democratic right to question and criticise the government’s functioning on streets, through speeches, strikes, organising marches, conferences and similar means. None of these can, however, force the government to take action as demanded by the BJP. Even if a significant number of people turn out displaying their support for their actions, the real political test will come when national elections take place.

The BJP has failed in respecting political ethics of parliamentary system. Questions and motions should be raised in keeping with the norms of functioning of parliament. The BJP has not allowed this to happen in the monsoon session. Paradoxically, it is taking pride in not having allowed the house to function. India has the largest parliamentary democracy in the world. It is a shame that a country that was some time back looked up as a ‘model democracy’ is now earning criticism for its non-functional session marked by rowdy scenes. The opposition must answer as to what are its political priorities where parliamentary democracy is concerned.                            –Khaleej Times