The repeal of the three farm laws without any discussion in Parliament and the suspension of 12 Opposition MPs show how the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government continues to remain on a warpath, reluctant to follow the fundamental tenet of a Parliamentary democracy that calls for engaging with everyone.
The hubris of the massive mandate has meant the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains confrontational, undemocratic and prone to bulldozing its way through. The decision to repeal the farm laws may have seemed like the government was willing to listen and give in, but the manner of repeal shows how stubborn and arrogant it remains.
The problem isn’t with the decisions of this government. It isn’t the first or the last government to make controversial decisions. It is about the manner in which the decisions are taken, excluding all other stakeholders. If democracy gives you the mandate to rule, it also gives you the responsibility to govern democratically. Something the Modi government seems to have forgotten.
The unsavoury start
Just one day into the winter session of Parliament, and the Opposition is already crying hoarse, and rightfully so. The government, despite coming under much criticism for passing the three contentious farm laws without adequate debate and discussion, chose to repeal them in the same manner.
Even if a repeal is what the Opposition’s primary demand was, any big move in Parliament should be preceded by discussions and engagement, irrespective of its acceptability or the government’s mandate. The whole idea of Parliamentary debate is to ensure that key issues are discussed and every stakeholder gets a say. If the Opposition wanted to discuss the issue of Minimum Support Prices (MSP), then it was the duty of the government to have allowed it.
Then again, the suspension of 12 opposition MPs for the entire duration of this session for ‘misconduct’ in the last session of Parliament reeks of vindictiveness and the desire to silence voices of protest. Unparliamentary protests have no place on the floor of the House, and to that extent, action against erring MPs is not wrong. But it’s the disproportionate quantum of action that has irked the Opposition, and raised questions about the government’s fairness and intent.
Old habits die hard
The Modi government has displayed hubris and lack of respect for democratic and political niceties ever since it came to power in 2014. Ordinances have been its go-to crutch, starting right from the dilution of the Land Acquisition Act, another move it had to go back on.
All its big moves — from demonetisation to abrogation of Article 370, passage of the Triple Talaq Bill or the Citizenship Amendment Act — have been unilateral and without adequate consultation or engagement with opponents. And these, of course, are just some of the examples.
Yes, this government has the people’s mandate. Yes, there are some tough decisions to be taken and the government feels it has the right to do so. But no mandate, however handsome, allows you to silence the voice of the Opposition and reduce Parliament to a Bill passing factory instead of a place of constructive deliberation.
That the opposition fails to project a united front in the House is an irrelevant issue and more of a political argument. The onus is not on the Opposition to outmaneuver the government. The onus is on the ruling party — to play by the rules, give the Opposition its due and engage with it.
The arrogance of its mandate and Modi’s massive popularity has overshadowed all else for the BJP. It may still win the next election, just as how it won 2019, because it has a lot going for it. But winning elections cannot be the sole endgame for any leader or party that wants to establish its stature in a democracy and create a legacy.
By reducing Parliament to its playground and an arena where it can display its might, Narendra Modi’s BJP is doing great disservice not just to democracy or the country, but to itself.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)