India Insight

Business of adjournments in parliament

November 22, 2012

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Talk of a trust vote, foreign direct investment in retail, and 102 bills pending overall – this is what the agenda for the winter session of parliament could have been. It was, actually, but sometimes things just get in the way.

Day one of the winter session started in the same way that the last session ended: opposition parties protesting over various contentious topics. Also, on the first day, the speaker rejected a motion to trigger early elections with a no-confidence vote.

Quite clearly, politicians only say they prefer a healthy debate. But before that debate could even begin, something else happened.

On Wednesday, the Shiv Sena proposed the adjournment of parliament as a mark of respect to deceased Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray in Mumbai. The BJP also backed the proposal.

It almost reminds you of the monsoon session earlier this year. Rainfall was below normal, but it was enough to wash out the session.

With only 16 working days in this session, politicians should have never demanded an adjournment.

Thackeray might have been a beloved firebrand nationalist for some and a religious zealot for others, but it’s up for debate whether his death last week should have shut down India’s national legislative body, let alone Mumbai. Thackeray’s death also makes me wonder whether parliament should be adjourned for the death of any politician, including a sitting member of the house.

Rather, as a mark of respect, legislators could observe a two-minute silence. Given that parliament is the cornerstone of our democracy, allowing it to function the way it should is perhaps the best way to pay homage to a great leader.

One could argue that there is precedent of parliament not functioning as a mark of respect to the death of eminent politicians such as Vilasrao Deshmukh. But does that mean we will never change the way our democratic institutions function?

Also, the adjournment of parliament to pay respect to a dead leader may not be an intolerable idea if the voting populace is assured that no session will be disrupted thereafter. But a smooth session remains a distant dream, the unbecoming example of which was set by repeated adjournments of both houses on the first day of the winter session.

Politicians need to change and set examples. The least they can do is engage in debates and stop disrupting parliament.

(You can follow Sankalp on Twitter @sankalp_sp )

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