Ordinarily, a parliamentary election should have settled many a controversy the nation was caught up with earlier, allowing the new Lok Sabha and the government to get on with the business of governance. The battle fatigue and ups and downs the politicians experienced should have had enough sobering effect forbidding them from indulging in some of their destructive inclinations.
However, instead of peace descending on the scene, an atmosphere of confrontation seems to be developing which bodes ill for the country and the political system. The emerging tensions can do damage to Parliament particularly.
Partly, the current political tensions are in-built in the nature of the verdict which threw the BJP-led NDA out of power and replaced it with a coalition led by the Congress party.
Neither alliance was prepared for the poll outcome. For the BJP, it came as a shock; for the Congress, it came as a pleasant surprise and in a way it had to improvise while forming the government.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi had almost become Prime Minister, and had she taken the oath of office, she would have handed the BJP an excellent issue for revival. She, however, declined the job and deprived the BJP of an opportunity to exploit what might become a divisive question for the country.
The ruling alliance and the BJP— which, having tasted power, is yet to reconcile itself to sitting on the opposition benches— are heading for a showdown on the issue of the presence of ministers with a history of crime.
The BJP-led boycott of the new Lok Sabha’s opening session, including a vote and debate on the President’s Address, has left a scar on the Lok Sabha’s record and there are unfortunately voices in the BJP that the party should continue to boycott the proceedings until the tainted ministers are thrown out of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. The row over the dismissal of the BJP’s governors has only made the atmosphere more acrimonious.
Unless the Speaker, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, succeeds in bringing about a compromise, the government-Opposition face-off might become more bitter. Neither the ruling alliance nor the BJP combine is going to come out of it. The casualty is going to be Parliament the people have elected with some hope.
No political party is realising that the people might lose faith in Parliament which is supposed to take care of their interests. If only the politicians knew what cost the nation will have to pay in case the Fourteenth Lok Sabha loses the trust of the electors so early in its career.
The ruling alliance can certainly be faulted for including Messrs Taslimuddin and Company in the government. The people are finding it hard to accept its argument that political compulsions and skewed arithmetic of the new Lok Sabha had left it with no choice but to induct these gentlemen, who ought to have been kept at a distance from the government. No one in the country can relish the sight of these unsavoury characters sitting behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Treasury Benches and the people are also not going to be impressed by the argument that charges against Messrs Taslimuddin and others have not yet led to their conviction and as such they can easily be made ministers.
These worthies with impressive crime records will have to be willy-nilly thrown out of the government one day. The question before the Congress is whether they are shown the door now, or only when it is brought under greater pressure when the BJP would take the credit for their ouster.
The key issue at the moment, however, is whether the BJP and its allies should whip up a frenzied atmosphere, bringing the functioning of Parliament to a halt, and derailing the vital discussion even on the General Budget in which people have a greater stake than the political parties themselves.
The BJP leaders must think about the cost the party will have to pay if they allow the budget being passed with just a voice vote by a truncated House. Such treatment given to the President’s Address by the Opposition was unpopular with the people; blocking discussion on the general Budget would be more so.
The people certainly want the criminals to be weeded out not only from the Council of Ministers, but also from Parliament, the state legislatures and even from the political parties themselves.
Every political party has been giving tickets to criminals, or using their money or muscle to win elections at different levels and degrees. No political party’s hands are absolutely clean on this account.
The danger from criminals is common to all parties which need to join hands to deny the crooks any role or party tickets. This would require a consensual approach and cooperation and not confrontation.