Disruptions in both Houses of Parliament yesterday – following the opposition clamour for repeal of the farm laws – portend another stormy session. Government and opposition aren’t budging an inch from their respective positions when the farm bills were passed in the monsoon session, without accepting the latter’s demand to refer it to a select committee. Since then the movement against farm reforms has gained in strength, forcing the government into protracted negotiations with farm unions.
Cancellation of the winter session during this period, citing the pandemic, was poor optics. It signalled that India’s foremost deliberating body was nowhere in the picture during its biggest farm mobilisation. With the government’s offer to suspend the laws for 18 months not proving adequate to bring agitating farmers around, it’s only fitting that the impasse is debated in Parliament which enacted the laws. This may even find common ground. Unfortunately, a rational culture of debate and discussion has become a near impossibility. Bulldozing tactics on one side and stonewalling at the other end have rendered fruitful parliamentary functioning a casualty.
One side unwilling to listen and the other unwilling to collaborate sums up the extent and costs of political polarisation. It reflects in the sedition cases slapped upon government critics and journalists by BJP-governed states or the opposition’s surly equating of much-needed privatisation to selling the family silver and crony capitalism. What happens with such partisanship is fairly obvious: Both the democratic rights of citizens and the democratic mandate to govern weaken. Farmers are claiming legitimacy for their protest citing the short shrift to Parliament. Since Parliament is the only forum bringing government and opposition together, the brinkmanship is felt instantly here as disrupted sessions. Restore the culture of debate to Parliament. A polity unafraid to confront its differences can unite the country in the urgent task of post-pandemic reconstruction.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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