The bitter truth behind BJP’s deafening budget silence
To some, the parliamentary walkout by India’s opposition prior to the vote on the country’s annual budget motion marked the failure of India’s ruling Congress party to engage with its primary adversary, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over its claims that the Prime Minister had lied to parliament to protect his own reputation.
To others, the sight of BJP leader Sushma Swaraj leading her MPs out of the chamber as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee prepared to deliver the most important parliamentary bill of the year encapsulated the sorry state of India’s increasingly bitter partisan politics that show no signs of repair since trumpeting corruption became the opposition’s raison d’etre.
Swaraj would later tell The Hindu that her walkout was to avoid disrupting the passage of the bill, but the damning point rang out loud and clear: the opposition had decided the corruption drumbeat was more important than the budget.
Mukherjee had earlier pleaded with senior BJP leaders to allow the budget to be debated prior to any discussion on a parliamentary privilege motion submitted against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by Swaraj, promising a two-and-a-half hour debate on the issue after the budget had passed.
But as the budget was given precedent over the privilege motion, out trooped the opposition in protest, leaving a half-empty chamber to pass the bill that will keep the country financed on April 1.
India’s parliament was paralysed in November by opposition protests demanding an inquiry into allegations a minister had lost the exchequer up to $39 billion in a telecom spectrum scam, which eventually resulted in the entire winter session being abandoned. Since it reopened in February, after extensive negotiations between Congress and the BJP, various protests from the opposition over other corruption charges have resulted in adjournments and cancellation of parliamentary business.
With a slew of economic reforms seen crucial to India’s continued growth momentum gathering dust as MPs exchange insults and chants across the floor of both houses of parliament, the partisan politics that have turned India’s much-vaunted parliamentary democracy into a slanging match between government and opposition risk ruining far more than just the reputation of the primary belligerents.