On Friday March 25, 2011, the Budget Session of Parliament was adjourned sine die. This may have been the shortest Budget Session in many years.
When the President had issued Summons to MPs inviting them for the Session the schedule indicated to them was :
Commencement: February 21, 2011
Adjournment sine die: April 21, 2011
Recess to enable Standing Committees of Parliament
to consider Demands for Grants of various Ministries: March 16 to April 4
But early in March, on the ground that the Election Commission had announced the programme of polls for four State Assemblies and one Union Territory legislature, two decisions were taken: firstly, the examination of Demands for Grants by the Parliamentary Standing Committees was abandoned, and secondly, the Budget Session would end on March 25.
For Parliament, abandonment of the indepth analysis of the Budget Demands of various Ministries is a big loss.
I feel that if Government and the Election Commission had had an informal interaction early in January, this situation could have been avoided. The dates of the Budget Session and the poll schedule for the States could have been properly coordinated.
The BJP has reason to be proud of its performance during the session just ended. The Leaders of Opposition in both Houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley made memorable speeches at the outset (LS: Government motion to set up a JPC) and (RS: Motion of Thanks on Rashtrapati Address); and on its conclusion (Cash for Votes Debate: Both Houses).
These concluding debates understandably created some tension and heat but that did not prevent the BJP from helping Government when the Left Parties sought to thwart Government from introducing the Pensions Bill. The Leader of the House, Pranabji gracefully conveyed his thanks to Sushmaji, to Yashwant Sinha and to me for the party’s decision.
The Indian Express lead editorial on March 26 titled “Engaging Again”, heartily complimented both Government and the NDA and described the development as a “reminder that Parliament is the site of productive disagreement and principled cooperation”
On the eve of Parliament’s adjournment sine die the people at large were much less concerned about politics, than they were about the World Cup Quarter Final taking place at Ahmedabad between India and Australia. Many were describing the match as the Final before the actual Final. Maybe others will give the same appellation to the Semi-Final due to take place at Mohali on March 30th, now between India and Pakistan. With Cricket being the flavour of the season, I would be guilty of a big omission if while praising the BJP’s performance during the Budget Session, I fail to compliment Syed Shah Nawaz Hussain, our dynamic M.P. from Bhagalpur for his speech on a motion to discuss the condition of Muslims in the country, in which he specifically referred to the contribution of Muslims to Cricket in Team India.
In his speech, Shah Nawaz Hussain said: “The World Cup Cricket Tournament is going on these days. The eleven players in Team India include Zahir Khan, Munaaf Patel and Yusuf Pathan. Three out of eleven makes it 30.6 per cent. And this is on the basis of their talent, not on the basis of any reservation”. Incidentally, all these three players are from Gujarat !
In his excellent speech Shah Nawaz cited numerous statistics contrasting the prosperity of Muslims in Gujarat with the problems of Muslims elsewhere in the country. To those who were interrupting him whenever he even mentioned Gujarat, he challengingly said, “If you do not like my talking about Gujarat, I can take you to my own state of Bihar or to Madhya Pradesh or to any other NDA ruled state and convince you how well the minorities are being looked after !”
Those who heard Shah Nawaz on TV were all praise for his speech. I understand that when Shah Nawaz went for his Friday Namaz at the Kasturba Gandhi Marg Mosque, the Imam publicly complimented him for his speech and described it as an “eye-opener”.
India has still to grapple with many issues crucial for the stability of parliamentary democracy. One of these pertains to the perpetuation of hereditary power. On the eve of Independence, India abolished over 550 princely states and, after a few years, abolished the privy purses of the erstwhile rulers by proclaiming from the housetops its socialist pretentions. But the ‘princely’ families of political leaders are asserting themselves with vengeance all over the country. Once upon a time, the 20 ruling families of Pakistan had become the butt of jokes in India with its pretensions of democracy. Now we have ‘ruling’ families in all political parties, in all states, right down to the village level. Most of the so-called young MPs and MLAs who are touted as the induction of young and fresh blood in political parties are the sons, sons-in-laws, daughters, daughters-in-law, grand-nephews, uncles and so on of those in power. …
it is worth noting that except for the BJP, Communist and leftist parties, almost all other political parties in India are family concerns. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress party for the last 12 years and the real power behind the throne in Delhi, is Italian by birth; the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Hamid Ansari, are retired Indian Foreign Service officers, and Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, is a retired officer of the Indian Economic Service! Who could have imagined that India, with its population of over a billion, would be so bereft of leadership, drawn from the masses, 60 years after practicing parliamentary democracy ?
Former Home Secretary and Secretary, Justice,
Government of India, I.A.S. (Retd.) – 1959 – 1996
(sought voluntary retirement) .
Excerpts from Introduction to his latest book:
‘India’s Parliamentary Democracy on Trial’, published 2011.
March 27, 2011