Parliamentary observers could not have avoided taking note of the decidedly different approach each House took to major debates as the monsoon session drew to a close. Both focused on “national issues” violence in the Kashmir Valley, and continuing atrocities against Dalit communities and both were triggered by comments from the Prime Minister outside the apex legislature (did Parliament fail in its duty by not duly acknowledging Irom Sharmila ending her marathon hunger strike protesting the use of AFSPA in Manipur?), but that was where the commonality ended. The Rajya Sabha “rose to the occasion” on Kashmir, but the Lok Sabha got embroiled in yet another slanging match that did not yield even token results. Critics, however, could contend that the “quality debate” in the Elders met ridicule and rebuff in the Valley, while at least the Lok Sabha facilitated the trading of charges. One conclusion that could be drawn was that since there was an external dimension to the strife in Kashmir the Rajya Sabha avoided pointing accusing fingers across the aisle: even adopted a unanimous appeal for a cessation of violence. Would that suggest a higher priority being accorded to Kashmir than the unbridled shenanigans of cow vigilantes the latest manifestation of Dalit oppression? Not quite.
The “show” in the Lok Sabha confirmed that our parliamentarians are most comfortable when politicking. Few suggestions were made to address a socio-religious scourge that has plagued generations. The Opposition, led by the Congress, tried to contend that Dalits were most targeted after Narendra Modi & Co. assumed office. The home minister led the counter charge by taking recourse to statistics that suggested that the downtrodden had been getting the worst of it since time immemorial. While Mr Rajnath Singh did try to maintain a certain standard, his ministerial colleagues had little time for such delicacies and M Venkaiah Naidu demonstrated why he had been such a negative force when entrusted with the management of parliamentary affairs.
Jyotiraditya Scindia was used as key weapon by the Congress: he wielded a bludgeon, lacked the surgical finesse of his much-respected father. A walk-out confirmed that the House held out little hope for the suffering. True that many a tragic tale was recounted, but it was written off as “old hat, routine” or was drowned in the tu tu mein mein cacophony.
Political factors clearly “coloured” the two debates. Since neither of the political forces as presently arrayed had high stakes in the Kashmir Valley (the PDP-BJP alliance is a strictly Kashmir-Jammu combine) they could afford to be magnanimous. It was a different story in the Lok Sabha: with the electoral flag having been hoisted in UP, Punjab and Gujarat, the “Dalit cow” is there for milking at the ballot box.