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Disruption in Parliament isn’t new. But there was a new aggression in this monsoon session

This monsoon session was the worst in terms of productivity in the second term of the Modi govt, with Lok Sabha recording just 22% functioning hours and Rajya Sabha 28%.

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MPs climbing on reporters’ table in Rajya Sabha, tearing and hurling papers at the Chair, allegations and counter allegations about women members being manhandled by security staff – the just concluded monsoon session of Parliament saw unprecedented drama from the word go, recording a new low on several counts.

It didn’t come as a surprise then that the session, adjourned on 11 August, two days ahead of schedule, turned out to be the least productive of the six sessions held since 2019, after the Narendra Modi government came to power for the second time.

While Lok Sabha functioned for just 21 hours and 14 minutes out of the total stipulated 96 hours (22 per cent), Rajya Sabha worked for only 28 of the total 97.5 hours (28 per cent), as per data provided by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats. The total chaos that virtually washed out Parliament workings is why this monsoon session is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: Democracy needs opposition. But Modi govt wants to show leaders as Parliament ‘miscreants’

Not over even when the session’s over

The showdown between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition did not end with the monsoon session’s abrupt adjournment.

A day after, while over a dozen opposition parties marched to Vijay Chowk from Parliament to protest, in an unprecedented move, the central government fielded seven Union ministers to respond to the opposition’s charges that the House was deliberately adjourned ahead of schedule and outsiders were allowed in the House to assault members.

Objectionable acts by MPs during sessions is nothing new. In fact, Parliament has witnessed far more dramatic scenes in the past. In February 2014, when the UPA government took up the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation bill, Congress MP Lagadapati Rajagopal took out a pepper spray and sprayed it in the House. The incident resulted in three MPs getting hospitalised.

But very rarely, the parliamentary process of discussion and debate has been under attack like it was during this monsoon session. Barring the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, majority of bills were passed within a few days of being introduced, without being discussed in the House or referred to any parliamentary committee for scrutiny.

The Constitution (127th Amendment) bill, which seeks to restore the power of states and union territories to identify and notify their own list of Other Backward Class (OBC), however, was debated for over five hours in both the Houses before it was passed.

Also read: Parliament worked 49 hours, wasted 151 hours — monsoon session was least productive in Modi 2.0

Ruling and opposition, united in aggression

Both the ruling and opposition parties might be feeling happy to not cede their ground, but they have put a question mark on the effectiveness of Parliament in the process.

The disruptions witnessed during the session reflect a fractious polity. But what also stood out in this session was the aggression on both sides – the opposition refused to back down and let the House function till the Modi government accepted its demand to discuss issues including the Pegasus snooping controversy, repeal of farm laws, etc.

The BJP was equally adamant that the statement made by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was more than enough and no further discussions will take place on the matter.

The oppositions’ demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah make a statement in the House on the Pegasus scandal fell on deaf ears. The opposition also did not yield to the government’s outreach to allow discussion on other issues including the Covid situation and issues plaguing the agriculture sector.

Also read: Vajpayee on a bullock cart to Rahul riding tractor: Parliament is used to ‘theatrics’ by MPs

What’s new? Passing bills without discussion

The disruptions and uproar witnessed during the monsoon session is not a first.

Last year’s monsoon session also witnessed high drama after the government passed the farm laws, even as the opposition boycotted Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes. Opposition MPs threw rule books and broke the microphone placed on the deputy chairman’s table.

Eight opposition MPs were suspended for a week from Rajya Sabha. The suspended MPs held a night-long dharna on Parliament premises.

Similarly, in the first term of the Modi government, the winter session in December 2016 saw massive disruption with the opposition protesting the government’s decision to demonetise high value currency notes. The session was the worst productive with Lok Sabha recording a productivity of 15.75 per cent and Rajya Sabha 20.61 per cent.

One of the worst sessions in the recent past was during the winter session in December 2010, after the 2G scam broke out. The session had recorded a low 6 per cent work.

However, what is different now is that despite being a virtual washout, the Modi government managed to pass 20 bills in Lok Sabha and 19 in Rajya Sabha, majority of them without any discussion or being referred to parliamentary committees.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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