Divided, we stall!

Once elected, our reps are indeed a law unto themselves, totally insulated from those who elected them. But this familiar disconnect appears to have vanished at least temporarily. Never has Parli truly represented the nation as it has done from the start of the winter session. An anarchic, chaotic country finds ample articulation in an unruly, dysfunctional Parli today. A nation divided finds resonance in a House divided.

We will presently get to the burning issues that are in turn burning all bridges between a disparate people. But first to the (non)functioning of Parli which has become too frequent an occurrence for comfort. That the country is best governed when the Houses are not in session may be a frustrating reality that we have come to terms with, but that does not absolve Parliamentarians of their sworn duties. And the most elementary of those duties is to work, at least after having voted themselves undeserving salaries that are unaffordable to the people. But look at what we get: 32 critical legislation in limbo due to complete paralysis which in turn is wrought by members who deem it their privilege to shirk and strike. Even children offer better returns in terms of behaviour for a lollipop! Or a coolie better service for a pittance. How we wish there is a real well in Parli wherein these Stall-’warts’ can be pushed when they rush!

Now, is such display of dissent, howsoever ugly, a symbol of our thriving democracy or symptomatic of a lawless, listless society? Of course, there is no guarantee that Parli behaviour will improve if a semblance of sense and sanity prevails in the nation. But behind the facade of the raging dissent lies unadulterated duplicity. And a nation riven by a slew of internal wranglings only renders itself an easy alibi for the dubious reps to unleash all their double standards. An unscrupulous regime on the mat on various counts would only welcome this diversion, while for a starved opposition any stick is fine so long as it helps stir some trouble. Otherwise, why should the UPA raise the bogey of retail FDI just when the Lokpal was the cynosure of all eyes? And why would the BJP, which originally championed the move when in power, now make it a life or death issue? And how many of the allies, on either side, would vote inside the House in sync with their own voices outside the House? Well, trust most dissenters to walk out or just abscond! But all this passes Parliamentary muster because the nation is vulnerable.

Any real solution to the retail FDI issue can only lie beyond the wisdom of Parli, which in any case does not display any. Suppose, Parli settles the policy issue by numerical vote? Does it solve the qualitative questions raised in various quarters? I have been closely following the debate in the public realm and I must say I am dumbfounded, not just by the extreme passions it has evoked but also by the volume of data and interpretations that have been put forth. Both sides have valid arguments. But owing to the trust deficit, every official decision looks dubious, more so this one. And of the intentions of the progeny of the East India Company, the less said the better. Indeed, despite all pious pronouncements about people’s interests it appears that only sound lobbying by those foreign firms have carried the day.

Still, for the record, many angles remain inadequately addressed. For one, the Government claims Walmarts would grant salvation to farmers. The moral abdication from its duty towards a distressed tribe apart, how does the Government expect a profit-minded multi-national to do what a ‘people-oriented’ welfare State has failed to? Again, Walmart & Co will now decide the crop and even land holding patterns, allowing for even genetically modified farming inputs by the back door. Forget private vendors, there is no talk of the fate of the cooperative movement or the PDS system which are in the public domain and which are now handling a lot of essential consumables. After all, it is the government’s long-term bungling of these that had caused havoc in the lives of both food producers and consumers. The ‘outsourcing’ of such policy responsibilities and initiatives touches a ridiculous pitch when ‘eminent economist’ MSingh himself says retail FDI will benefit consumers by bringing down inflation! The Finance Ministry will probably move from North Block to a counter in a Walmart store. So what next, logically? FDI in RBI, to better manage the economy? But then, what can be expected of a political party that injected a Foreign Direct Individual into the political system!

Inter-State issues offer another fertile playground for politicians and political parties to play their fatal games even as their vote galleries cheer. TN and Kerala MPs clashed over the Mullaperiyar dam sometime in between the FDI ruckus. The immediate provocation was a few tremors in the Dam belt, an event that synced with the orchestrated fear psychosis in Kerala over the stability of the Dam. But the real controversy of late has been over a Keralites’-sponsored movie about the Dam and the opposition to it here in TN. That a movie can set national and Parliamentary agenda reflects on the priorities and passions of the people and politicians in the two States too. The funnier part is, national parties like the Congress, BJP, Left found no contradiction in taking a pro-Kerala stand in Kerala and a pro-TN stand in TN. Their local units were free of their otherwise stifling ‘high commands’ in enacting this hypocrisy. Also, Kerala had over the years constructed many dams downstream MPeriar and all those projects were the butt of corruption charges. The Mperiyar waters have now washed away all those sins as also a verdict by none less than the SC that the Dam level can be raised to 142 ft. So, for Kerala MPs, success on Mperiyar is more important than Lokpal or rule of law, both of which will likely dilute their Dam prospects. After all, that is what their voters want!

Kashmir. Cauvery. Telengana. Ayodhya. Quotas. There are scores of such handy knives embedded in Bharath’s stomach at the disposal of our reps. Add to them default macro issues like inflation, corruption and terrorism and we seem to be in for a ‘no show’ in Parli for quite some time ahead. A cosy scheme indeed for an unelected PM who need not face LS anyway!

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Jawahar T R