Thursday, January 27, 2022

Living together

Monsoon session saw government and opposition talk to each other, work together, in heartening ways. This must continue.

By: |
August 13, 2016 12:31:33 am

In contrast to previous sessions, which showcased the severity of the acrimony between the treasury and opposition benches, the monsoon session of Parliament was marked by a rare coming together that allowed the government to get crucial and long-awaited reform legislation like the GST passed. Both Houses passed 14 laws as the Lok Sabha worked for 101 per cent of its scheduled work hours and the Rajya Sabha through 96 per cent of its expected work time. Credit for this must be shared by government and opposition, but it goes more to the government which, in the last instance, is responsible for the smooth functioning of the House. In this session, the government seemed to make a determined effort to reach out across the aisle. This was a welcome departure from the time when the government, still carrying the swagger from the large mandate it received in 2014, seemed overly aggressive, if not confrontational, in Parliament. The vitriol of the electoral campaign had appeared to linger too long in Parliament.

The GST bill was the showpiece of the session, but other important bills included the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, for instance, which decriminalises the attempt to suicide — it was passed by the Rajya Sabha and is now pending passage in the Lok Sabha. There were important debates on the Kashmir violence and the increasing attacks on Dalits in many parts of the country. These debates had their share of tense moments, but senior members of both government and opposition were careful not to let political differences derail deliberations. On Kashmir, despite trenchant criticism from the opposition, the government engaged with it to express a shared concern and to seek an end to the recent eruption of violence in the politically sensitive state. A similar willingness to engage was on show in the debate on Dalit atrocities. Home Minister Rajnath Singh acknowledged the problem even as he took refuge in statistics to claim that attacks on Dalits had come down since the NDA government came to office. Again, while speakers of the opposition and government traded charges, it did not lead to a total breakdown in the conversation, as it had when Parliament debated Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU controversy in a previous session.

Hopefully, both sides will build on the new mellowness in government-opposition relations. Of course, Parliament will always mirror the ideological positions of the parties, and their disagreements and differences. But both sides must guard against the vicious polarisation that all too often makes dialogue impossible. Going ahead, even as the government can claim the larger credit for a productive monsoon session, the onus will also be more on it to carry along the opposition as it legislates and governs.

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