People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April 28, 2013




Govt’s Obduracy Causes

Present Impasse in Parliament



AS we go to press it appears almost certain that the rest of the budget session of parliament is set to be paralysed. This UPA-2 government has for some time now been avoiding its constitutional accountability to the parliament. The Indian constitution mandates that the centrality of our Republic rests in the supreme sovereignty of the people. This is exercised by the elected representatives of the people sent to parliament. The government in turn is accountable to parliament which in turn is accountable to the people. This is the mechanism by which according to our constitutional scheme of things, the supremacy of people’s sovereignty is exercised.


If this chain is broken at any of its links, then the constitution itself stands violated. It is precisely this that is occurring with the parliament being paralysed and thus allowing the government to escape from its accountability.


The issue in the present case is that of the scam of the allocation of coal blocks. Following media reports that the union law minister allegedly tried to influence the Supreme Court ordered CBI probe into these allegations, the opposition had rightfully been demanding an explanation from the government. The government has so far avoided. The Left parties have been demanding that both the prime minister and the law minister must make statements clarifying their position in both houses of parliament followed by discussion and thus make the government accountable. The principal opposition party, the BJP, while initially agreeing with this demand has now upped the ante by seeking the resignation of both the prime minister and the law minister. This along with the government’s obduracy has lead to the present impasse.


However, notwithstanding this, the government must be forced to come clean on how they are influencing the CBI in its investigations on this issue. This is all the more necessary as there are many charges of the government using the CBI to further its political objectives particularly the survival of this minority government.


There could well be some degree of ‘match fixing’ here as some of the coal block allocations go back to the period of the NDA government.  That this is no mere suspicion has been endorsed by the report of the parliamentary standing committee on coal submitted this week. Chaired by a prominent Trinamul Congress MP, this committee’s report documents in detail all acts of omission and commission in coal blocks allocation including the period of the BJP-led NDA government. Incidentally, for some time during this period the Trinamul Congress chief was the coal minister in the Vajpayee government. Thus, the report of the committee headed by a Trinamul Congress MP indicts the Party’s chief itself!


However, that the government is escaping from its accountability is demonstrated once again in the manner in which the Joint Parliamentary Committee report on the 2G Spectrum scam has been unilaterally prepared and circulated by its chairman. This report is a complete cover up operation that absolves both the prime minister and the finance minister of any responsibility on matters connected with the unfolding of the scam. The report indicts the former telecom minister A Raja alone for all the acts of commission and omission which led, according to the CAG, to a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores to the nation’s exchequer. With the DMK withdrawing its support to this UPA government and also withdrawing from the coalition, the Congress party seems to have been emboldened to use the DMK’s A Raja as the only one culpable for the scam and thus shield themselves.


From the JPC’s proceedings it is clear that the scam is a result of a collective decision of the prime minister, finance minister and the then telecommunications minister. It is the UPA-2 government that is thus collectively responsible for this mega scam.


Further, this report was leaked to the media even before it reached the members of the JPC. This should seriously merit the consideration of a breach of parliamentary privilege. Mandatorily  no content of the discussions and the report of any parliamentary committee are to be disclosed before they are presented to the parliament. This convention has been violated in this case. Surely this is yet another issue which will become a bone of contention in both houses of parliament.


Such a paralysis of parliamentary proceedings is most unfortunate. There are serious issues concerning the livelihood of the vast majority of our people that need to be taken up in the parliament and the government brought to book and pressurised to take measures to provide relief to the people.


It is clear that when the parliamentary forum for drawing the country’s and the government’s attention to issues of public importance and people’s livelihood becomes paralysed, then extra parliamentary forms of people’s struggles is the only course open to force this government to act in the interests of the vast majority of our country’s people. While this must be strengthened in the coming days, there is a need for heightened people’s vigilance on another score as well.


With the parliament remaining dysfunctional not only does the government escape from being accountable but can also seek to implement many a policy decision without parliamentary scrutiny. This is also very dangerous. All policy decisions concerning neo-liberal economic reforms that are pending before parliament’s scrutiny may well be sought to be smuggled through as executive decisions. This cannot be allowed as well. This government is all set to push further neo-liberal reforms in the financial sector; open up newer areas for the penetration of foreign direct investment through instruments like the free trade agreement with the European Union and cut the already meager subsidies that are given to the poor even further. On all such issues utmost vigilance needs to be exercised.


Under these circumstances, the popular struggles for an alternative policy direction in our country must be further strengthened. Following the success of the Sangharsh Sandesh jatha of the CPI(M) and the policy alternative that it projected, the CPI(M) has now called for an all India picketing of all central government offices which will assume the character of a civil disobedience movement in the second half of May this year. The strength of this movement is the only check that can stop this UPA government from undertaking all the above anti-people measures. Thus, for the sake of a better India, for the sake of better livelihood status of the vast mass of our people, this mass picketing programme must be not merely successful but be of such a strength that it must deter the government from proceeding on these disastrous lines.


(April 24, 2013)