Sad how Congress is hurting India by disrupting Parliament
When political pettiness is from country's so-called young leaders, it's inexplicable and unforgivable.
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About four months ago during the last Parliament session, I had penned an article about disruption caused by the Congress which paralysed the legislative process, blocked reforms, and wasted taxpayers' money, causing the country to pay huge social and economic costs. One would have thought that after the all-round criticism about a disastrous monsoon session of the Parliament, there would be some sanity which would be restored, but this winter session has shown that the only thing that has improved in Delhi is the weather.
The difference in this session was that disruption was high on the Congress agenda. Indeed, it was a case of the objective looking for reasons - as the excuses trotted out to justify the disruptions changed every day. Ranging from intolerance to National Herald to government change in Arunachal - disruption was clearly the endgame in their minds, the reasons irrelevant. The almost hysterical rhetoric about intolerance seems to just have disappeared with even the scheduled debate on this in the Rajya Sabha becoming victim to the Congress-led disruption. Imagine the irony - a party screaming about intolerance avoiding a debate on intolerance by disrupting Parliament.
So all this has made things clear about the fate of this session. Coming as it did on the back of the JD(U) coalition's big victory in Bihar, the Congress had two political motives - One was for the Congress to try and assert its political strength to shore up its declining political relevance ahead of the ensuing Kerala and Assam elections; and the other, in my opinion, the need to try and derail the Narendra Modi government's economic and reform momentum.
While the first is, in some ways, understandable for a political party desperately trying to remain relevant, the second is an unforgivable one because of what it does to the economy and the country. It has been evident that our economy is set for a major takeoff post the last many years of economic and governance decline - reversing the many years of weak investor confidence and scams which robbed the country to the tune of billions of rupees. Blocking Parliament seems like a concerted effort to put a lid on the government's efforts to initiate reforms and bring about transparency in governance, and to avoid the uncomfortable questions about corruption cases like the National Herald.
The damage to the economy by delaying further the rollout of a national GST is significant and real. Given that the GST is expected to boost GDP by one-two per cent in the short term and in turn improve the competitiveness of small and medium industries all over the country - the biggest losers are real businesses and those who work at them. This phenomenon was recently seen in Malaysia which enacted the GST from April this year. It is clear that the strategy of the Congress seems to be to deny the economy and country the growth from the GST before 2019 - the next elections. Otherwise why would a party stall a reform whose process was initiated during their regime?
The legislative agenda drawn up for this winter session was crucial for realising the country's need for reforms. Pivotal legislations listed included the Whistle Blowers Bill, the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Act, the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Bill, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill and the all-important GST Bill. Two of these legislations, namely the Real Estate and the GST Bills, would have had a direct impact on our economy and the consumers.
The Juvenile Justice (JJ) Bill was also not allowed to be debated despite being introduced in Parliament three times in the session. This JJ Bill was awaited by the Supreme Court and the courts as a way of ensuring justice in the Nirbhaya case as with other similar cases. Indeed, chief justice TS Thakur himself stated recently that the Supreme Court, which has been consistently favouring a relook of the provisions of the Bill, has put on hold the hearings of several cases pertaining to juveniles who had committed heinous offences, only because they were awaiting Parliament's decision on the Bill. This Bill did get passed on Tuesday, but only because the media and public outcry by Nirbhaya's parents forced the Congress to ensure the Rajya Sabha functioned, and a debate and passing of the Bill was made possible. To those who argue that the Bill was not perfect, the answer is simple - that is the cost and consequence of disrupted Parliament. The MPs then have less time to ponder, and therefore, legislations do happen under pressure and may end up less than perfect.
The opportunity that India has to transform and grow is a significant one. The stage is set for India to project itself as an economy that will catalyse the global economy. In Asia, most big economies are struggling - Japan is plunging back to recession with a shrinking GDP, low wage growth and debt of 250 per cent of its GDP. The recent volatility in the Chinese stock market has raised doubts about the sustainability of the Chinese economic model. Dwindling oil prices, though having positive effects on our fiscal deficit, is also becoming a major reason for an economic slowdown for countries like South Korea for whom refined petroleum products form a major source of exports. As Europe melts down and China pulls through a painful economic reset, there is considerable focus on India among foreign investors who are seeking an alternative investment destination. Big ticket investments are sitting on the sidelines citing the prevailing policy uncertainty in India.
Instead of charging forward to meet our economic and transformation promise, the country is being held back by these repeated acts of political pettiness. When political pettiness comes from old style politicians, it is more understandable. But when it is from so-called young leaders, it's inexplicable and unforgivable.
The mandate of the 2014 elections from the people of India was loud and clear. They wanted change - change in the way their governments function and in their economic future. Legislations are an important part of the solution set to achieve this transformation, and disruption of Parliament is a visible, deliberate and unforgivable effort by some to subvert this transformation that the people of India have sought and continue to seek.