Virtue is in debate, not parliamentary chaos
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s refusal to join debate in Parliament on the CAG report on what has come to be called Coalgate could prove to be a self defeating exercise in the longer run. Its war of attrition with the ruling combine on the issue is weakening the very institution the constitution makers envisaged to make governments accountable.
The BJP has predicated its return to debate on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation. That only shows it wants to keep alive the issue till elections to five state assemblies including Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year. The party is in power in both these states and the outcome in Gujarat will have implications for politics within the BJP and at the Centre, given Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions.
The stakes therefore are pretty high. While nobody can deny the saffron party its tactical prerogative, must it stall discussions in elected forums to which it wants to return with bigger numbers? Popular perceptions about institutions where politicians represent people are already low. They will touch the Nadir if the logjam continues in the absence of the government offering and the BJP agreeing to a middle ground.
The fact that Team Anna has lately sought to blacken the Congress and the BJP with the same brush in allocation of coal blocks should be a point of worry for both parties, especially the Opposition that hopes to regain power in 2014. Reclaiming space that it ceded to the civil society at the height of the anti-graft stir wouldn’t be easy for the BJP if it runs away from debate on a scam where it has to do its own explaining.
Today’s Opposition is notionally tomorrow’s ruler. Obstructionism cannot therefore be prolonged to limits that become precedents for political rivals when roles are reversed in future.
Moreover, the CAG report the BJP is using to attack the government on the streets and in television studios is a property of the House. It’s the Opposition’s duty to use it to first nail the government in Parliament.
The BJP argument that the public exchequer gained on account of its obstructionist game plan in the face of the spectrum scam does not wash. The credit for it goes to activist lawyers and Courts, not as much the political class. About time the party saw virtue in debate, not parliamentary chaos.