Instead of pushing through laws, the govt. must use Parliament for a detailed debate
The government and the Opposition are headed on a collision course in the Budget session of Parliament, with the latter planning to move a joint motion demanding a repeal of the three laws that are agitating farmers in much of the country. The confrontation over these laws is a legacy of the last session when they were passed without detailed and proper consultation with political parties, experts and farmer representatives. The session began with around 20 Opposition parties boycotting the President’s address to a joint sitting of Parliament. BSP President Mayawati belatedly announced her party’s decision to also stay away as a mark of protest. The delay clearly outlined her intention to keep a distance from the Opposition bloc, which among others has the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. The boycott indicated a worsening of the relationship between the government and the Opposition. In January 2020, the Opposition had attended the President’s address wearing black bands. The last time the Opposition boycotted the President’s Address was in November 2019 to commemorate the Constitution Day. President Ram Nath Kovind said the government would keep the farm Bills on hold as per a Supreme Court directive but did not indicate any rethink.
The government has advantages over the Opposition, in terms of the numerical strength in both Houses of Parliament. With the Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Assembly elections round the corner, two key Opposition parties, the DMK and the Trinamool Congress, are expected to be largely absent, further reducing the Opposition’s strength. The Opposition, despite its united front on the first day of the session, has a record of disintegrating in the face of the BJP’s manoeuvring in previous sessions. There will be discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President and later on the Budget. As of now there are no indications of the Opposition skipping these events. In legislative business, recent ordinances such as the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which has provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration and defines the law for conducting conciliation proceedings, and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, which is for merging the J&K cadre of All India Services Officers such as the IAS, IPS and the Indian Forest Service with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre, will have to get a parliamentary nod. The government draws its legitimacy from a parliamentary majority, but democratic conduct is more than enforcing the will of the majority. The government’s conduct in Parliament and outside, where its critics are facing the strong arm of the state machinery, should meet the high standards India has set for itself as a democracy.