People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 05, 2004



Opposition Denies People A Chance To Test The Regime

Harkishan Singh Surjeet


ON August 29, the present government completed its 100 days after Dr Manmohan Singh took the oath of office on May 22 this year. Yet, if the United Progressive Alliance regime was not able to have much to its credit, the blame squarely lies on the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance who did not allow the government to function the way it should have.

Pertinent to note here is what The Pioneer, a rabid pro-BJP paper, said on August 30. A story on its front page said: “Hundred days are too short a period to evaluate the performance of any regime. Yet, it should be enough to set the trend and course of the government.” This is all well said. But the ulterior motive of the paper, that is among the least read dailies coming out from national capital and is heavily dependent on BJP for its life, becomes evident from the very next line when it accuses the Left of not allowing the government to do what it wanted to do.




AND what does the paper want to achieve by thus attacking the Left? At a time not only common people but even the media, a big chunk of which was singing paeans to the BJP till the other day, are pointing their accusing fingers to the BJP and NDA for not allowing the parliament to function, the real aim of The Pioneer’s solo song becomes all too evident --- to try to divert attention from the misdeeds of the BJP whose recently thrown-out regime, among other things, pressurised the UTI to make investments in this paper’s shaky business. To try to drive a wedge between the UPA and the Left may be yet another aim of the BJP’s penpushers.


But the reality these penpushers have failed to hide from public knowledge, is that it is the BJP led NDA that began its obstructionist game from day one, not allowing the maiden session of the 14th Lok Sabha to transact its business. So much so that Dr Singh was not even allowed to introduce his council of ministers.


The BJP and NDA did not stop at that. They went on disrupting the proceedings almost every day in both the sessions, while constantly accusing the government of adopting a confrontationist approach. They did not allow the prime minister to reply to the debate on the president’s address, which was Dr Singh’s right as the country’s chief executive. Contrary to conventions, their boycott delayed the formation of the parliament’s standing committees, wasting a lot of precious time in which these committees could have done much of what they are supposed to do. Nor did they allow the ministers to put forth their views on their demands for grants. Despite public outrage over their mode of behaviour, they did not allow a debate on the budget, which is one of the foremost tasks a parliament is meant to do. Finally, what the BJP/NDA did was to tell the government that, without any debate, the budget should be taken as adopted. We know that in a parliamentary form of government, it is only through discussions on issues and various kinds of motions that the parliament exercises a check on the government’s functioning. But the BJP/NDA deprived the country’s highest law making body of this very right; this is unprecedented in the parliamentary history. If dictators illegitimately dissolve parliaments to deny them the right to discuss the regime’s functioning, the BJP has chosen another route to reach the same goal, perhaps because dissolving the parliament was out of its capacity.


This provides yet another evidence of the fascistic credentials of the BJP that is remote controlled by the RSS.




AND what has been the result of it all? That the latest parliament session had to be adjourned one week before the schedule.


Throughout the two sessions, the BJP/NDA tried their best to conjure excuses in order to cover up their misdemeanour, as their disruptive tactics left the limits of legitimate protest far behind. One such excuse the opposition harped upon was the issue of “tainted” ministers. But to use this issue as ammunition against the government, the BJP/NDA went so far as to take the ridiculous plea that certain of their ministers in Vajpayee’s cabinet were not criminals, even if they were directly involved in the Babri demolition crime or in corrupt deals. This is what prompted The Times of India (August 25) to editorially comment that “a criminal offence is a criminal offence, irrespective of whether it was motivated by greed, fear or lust --- or driven by ideology.”


Here, without holding any brief for the deep-rooted criminalisation of politics in our country, let us note that there are instances when the administration and police frame up political activists in criminals cases in order to suppress their legitimate protest. We are well aware of this bitter reality as a part of our day-to-day experience. But, does the BJP want to say that those who demolished the Babri Masjid were falsely implicated? One must not forget that, not to talk of press reports and video clippings, even RSS, BJP, VHP and Shiv Sena leaders had, in the first flush of enthusiasm, aired satisfaction that the mosque had been demolished. Ms Gauri Advani, a former member of L K Advani’s family, has even deposed before the Liberhan commission, under oath, that she had heard Advani and Vinay Katiyar conspiring for this criminal act.


In its newfound zeal, nor did the opposition like to demand that the parliament must discuss as to how we should define a tainted minister. That at least would have been far more educative for our people.


Another non-issue the BJP and its cohorts raised was that of the sacked governors. Here we won’t go into the fact that the appointment of these governors involved an impropriety. But while making loud noises about it, the BJP simply forgot that it too had sacked some governors soon after assuming office, in order to pack the Raj Bhavans with RSS men. Also note that recently the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh sacked the lady mayor of Bhopal and installed a nominated mayor there. Earlier, it had dissolved a large number of cooperative bodies because they were not controlled by BJP.       




AND then came the charge that the prime minister’s behaviour with NDA leaders had been “rude.” According to their version, when a group of NDA leaders went to meet Dr Singh, he not only did not sensibly behave but even threw away the memorandum they wanted to give him, with certain suggestions on the budget.  


To say the least, this itself constituted a misdemeanour on part of NDA leaders. They don’t deny that their suggestions pertained to the budget; the press has even quoted their suggestions. But, may one ask why they did not advance and discuss these suggestions on the floor of parliament? Certain weighty issues, like Manipur, cropped up during the last three months, crying for immediate intervention, but the people’s representatives could not properly discuss them because the BJP/NDA did not allow the parliament to function. Then, after disrupting the sessions and telling the government that the budget should be taken as adopted without discussion, what was the logic of making certain suggestions behind the back of the people?


As for the prime minister’s behaviour, their charges against Dr Singh have simply made them butts of ridicule. Today, not a single citizen is prepared to believe that Dr Singh may have behaved towards them the way he is accused of. Also, The Hindu editorial on August 30 referred to Fernandes’ invectives against Dr Singh in a “language that would embarrass a street bully,” adding that “It is no small irony that an opposition that now accuses Dr Singh of discourtesy failed to accord him the courtesies he deserved as a newly sworn-in prime minister.” And Pamela Philipose mockingly says in The Indian Express (August 29), “the opposition today is of the persuasion that the shape of Sonia Gandhi’s eyebrows or the colour of Manmohan Singh’s turban is not quite to their liking.” It seems the BJP/NDA have landed themselves in a marsh --- the more they try to come out, the more they sink into it. Their frustration has verily reached its peak.


It was because of this frustration that they even showed utter disregard to the office of speaker. Not only is this office regarded as above party politics; its present incumbent too has not given any indication of favouring the government. In fact Somnath Chatterjee, a committed leftist, has in a short span of three months proved that he is perfectly capable of preserving the dignity of this office. Nay, it was largely his persuasion that made the BJP/NDA agree to join the standing committees. Yet on occasions the opposition unduly targeted Chatterjee as well.




BUT who is to blame if a deep sense of frustration has gripped the NDA? Nobody but themselves. The fact is that, as the people have come to believe and more than one commentator has noted, the BJP/NDA have failed to digest their rout. Victory and defeat are parts of parliamentary politics in any part of the world but, like true fascists, the BJP has only shown that it is unable to reconcile to its rejection by the electorate. This means contempt for the highest court in a democracy --- the people’s court. This single fact explains their entire behaviour in the last 14 weeks. 


The latest episode involving Uma Bharti, on which we have already commented, shows their attitude in an unmistakable way. After the Hubli court remanded her to judicial custody, the venom-spitting sadhvi said the country is so much in the grip of a foreign lady that even trying to hoist the national flag has become a crime. This brings to the fore two points. One, who has given her (or anybody) a right to misuse the national flag for rousing communal passions? This indeed constitutes the flag’s contempt of the highest order. Secondly, it was a court of law that sent her to judicial custody and one is at a loss to understand what Mrs Sonia Gandhi had to do with it. Even an indirect insinuation that the court was in Mrs Gandhi’s grip makes Ms Bharti guilty of contempt of court.


There is nothing surprising in all this. Cut off from the mass mood, the BJP and NDA sincerely expected to have a cakewalk into the Lok Sabha --- an expectation that was fuelled by the BJP victory in assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. But, disgusted over their six-year misrule, the people dashed all their hopes to the ground. And, today, the RSS’ well-oiled rumour mill is churning out that the Congress played a trick upon them by getting defeated in these assembly polls. Truly, their naivete knows no bounds; they even believe an astrologer’s word that the UPA regime is about to fall in a short while. 


Also, the BJP/NDA disruption of parliament simply denied other parties a chance to raise issues. We of the Left did manage to raise some issues like Manipur, but were debarred from raising a host of pro-people issues we had in hand. 


This has yet another aspect. Believing for a moment the opposition’s contention that the UPA government has nothing pro-people to offer, parliament was a forum where the regime’s credibility could be tested. But by its behaviour the opposition only denied the people a chance to test the government in practice. Thus the BJP and NDA are guilty of irresponsibility and callousness towards the people’s issues.


It is this kind of behaviour that prompted Ms Pamela Philipose, quoted above, to quip: “This opposition is the best opposition we have ever had. In fact, so good at opposing has this opposition been that it is my earnest hope that its members continue to grace the opposition benches for many more years to come.” On our part, we can only assure Ms Philipose that, given this opposition’s penchant to “oppose everything and propose nothing,” her hope would be more than fulfilled.