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‘Holier than thou’

Editorial |

Something does not ring quite true with the announcement of the parliamentary affairs minister that MPs of the ruling National Democratic Alliance will forfeit their salaries for the period when Parliament was disrupted during what has earned infamy at the “least productive” session since the turn of the century.

For though he sought to create an impression of taking the high moral ground, Mr Ananth Kumar was actually putting the entire blame on the Opposition for the impasse that had prevailed for 23 days at the time of writing, and the prospects were bleak for the last two scheduled sittings.

The minister seems unaware the BJP stalwart, Arun Jaitley, had said that disruption was a “legitimate” tactic before his party moved to the treasury benches, and this would not be the first “wash out” in recent times.

Despicable though disruption is, the Opposition is essentially paying back in the same currency that had been favoured by Sushma Swaraj in yesteryears.

Since MPs’ salaries are calculated on a monthly basis, it could well turn out that the NDA members would be losing only the daily allowance, a small fraction of the pay-packet. Once again has the NDA sought to attract the headlines, lead public opinion on a curious path.

What the minister has, perhaps cunningly, attempted to camouflage is his own lack of competence in running the legislature ~ widely accepted as the government’s responsibility. To do that calls for a degree of give-and-take, reaching out across the aisle, using persuasion rather than the tyranny of numbers.

To be fair to Ananth Kumar, the “divide” had actually been created by his predecessor ~ and the alleged- arrogance resulting from the 2014 verdict has always militated against a consensual approach. The minister has made no discernible efforts in that direction.

During earlier confrontations the Presiding Officers of both Houses attempted to assuage hurt feelings, bring the warring factions together: Mrs Sumitra Mahajan seems wary of doing anything that would detract from the muscular image that this government projects of itself, and Mr M Venkaiah Naidu carries too much baggage to be a credible broker.

And 2019 is still too distant to think in terms of a “climate change”. The nation’s credentials as a parliamentary democracy are fast corroding. To list the string of questionable actions of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha might not be opportune, but suspicions are fuelled by her claiming an inability to take a head count to confirm the authenticity of no-confidence motions: though being able to have the finance bill approved and ministers make statements which none could challenge. What has not been explained is why the marshals were not summoned to permit initiation of the no-confidence motions?