Drought of debate will kill democracy
It’s always a pleasure to see the Treasury and the Opposition lock horns over issues in Parliament. One saw it happening in the Rajya Sabha over the Aircel-Maxis case in which allegations have been leveled against the son of Home Minister P Chidambaram.
At the receiving end of an equally formidable lawyer-politician Arun Jaitley, Chidambaram denied categorically the insinuated nexus between his son and certain decisions he took as Finance Minister in the UPA’s first avatar. But more significant than the arguments in the face-off was the government’s willingness to be accountable and the Opposition’s determination to play the watchdog.
Repeated disruptions and a drought of debate in parliament had perhaps made our MPs forget the virtues of cerebral combat. But that’s what parliamentary democracy is all about: MPs making the executive accountable; the executive acceding to members’ privilege to question it on key policy and governance issues.
The sad part is that it hadn’t been happening too often in recent years. But when parliament does sit down and debate, one realizes the value of the system and the immeasurable harm that accrues from it being in limbo.
It’s the government in waiting that adds luster to the government in action. The sooner the ruling side and the Opposition realize this, the better it will be for parliament in particular and the political class in general.
An obviously hurt Chidambaram found the Opposition’s charges as dagger dug into his heart. But Jaitley used appropriate words to deny malice. He said the questions hurled at the minister were in defense of transparent governance.
Allegations of graft, favoritism and misuse of authority have been on the rise in recent years, robbing governments of their credibility. But such hazards of being in public life are best addressed through sensitivity to popular outrage and parliament’s right to know.
The contrarian view must continue to be heard if not always accepted. That alone will sustain people’s faith in the system under fire.