The ongoing Parliament session is rife with political animosity, with the exception of a few pleasant moments. That is why, after the Indian documentary The Elephant Whisperers won an Oscar earlier this month, a brief discussion in the Rajya Sabha warmed the cockles of the heart. Why can’t this be the case throughout the session? Can’t our lawmakers swear to discuss every issue openly? It goes without saying that every minute ₹2.5 lakh is spent on parliamentary proceedings, though the average daily spending of about 25% of the nation’s population is less than ₹32. Essentially, our legislatures are turning into panchayats of the rich. Can’t our legislators show any respect for their largely poor constituents?
This question is more pertinent now that the current session is experiencing unprecedented uproar. Many Opposition parties are working together to corner the government over the Adani group issue. In Parliament, placards calling for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) are being waved. State legislatures, such as the one in Bihar, are also affected by this trend. For years, the parliamentary procedure has been seriously trashed.
Those demanding a JPC want to keep the Adani issue hot until the next election. What will the benefits be, if any? Chowkidar chor hai was Rahul Gandhi’s campaign slogan in the last election. He continued to bring up the Rafale controversy at election rallies after the Supreme Court (SC)’s rejection of these charges. What came out of it? It is also important to note that the Securities and Exchange Board of India has already started working on the probe that the apex court directed it to conduct on the Adani issue.
It has to be noted that while the Opposition is launching a campaign against Adani and the investigative agencies, the ruling party is asking Rahul Gandhi to apologise for what he said in London. The ruling coalition’s members are resolute about not allowing the House to function until he apologises. Meanwhile, Congress general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal moved a notice of breach of privilege against the Prime Minister in the Rajya Sabha, demonstrating that the Congress will continue its offensive. But how effective will this attack be when no one is holding his/her tongue?
Whatever Rahul Gandhi said in London may not have been “treason”; but it would have been better if he had been more careful with his words. He set a record by going for 4,000-plus kilometres in 136 days non-stop. No politician has ever come to the streets with the determination of such a long march. This had a significant impact on his image. After that people began to take him seriously. But his comments in London have dented his hard-won reputation.
Two of his statements had raised eyebrows even during this padyatra. In the first instance, while in Maharashtra, he mentioned Savarkar and remarked, “Savarkar-ji wrote a letter to the British and said, ‘Sir, I want to be your servant.’” His coalition partner Shiv Sena, led by Uddhav Thackeray, was taken aback. “Such utterances can cause a rift in the Maha Vikas Aghadi, thus Rahul Gandhi should avoid such issues. We disagree with what he said about Savarkar,” Sanjay Raut had to say while outlining his party’s stand.
A few days later, Rahul Gandhi again made headlines by saying, “Our forces are being beaten by the Chinese army on LAC [Line of Actual Control], and Beijing is preparing for war.”
Not only his opponents but also his allies would look to capitalise on the situation such utterances create. No surprise Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi and Nitish Kumar, a key ally of the United Progressive Alliance in Bihar, have placed the onus on him to forge Opposition unity and beat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming elections. These astute allies insist that the Congress should concentrate on the 262 seats in which it finished first or second in the last general election. Allies should be given responsibility for the remaining seats. Regional parties strive to strengthen their positions in this political game of chess. Members of the Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were absent from the march, organised under the leadership of the Congress, from Parliament to the Enforcement Directorate office. In such a case, the Congress must be more vigilant and cautious.
When dealing with the BJP, the Congress must remain cool, restrained, cooperative, and strong. Rahul Gandhi would have to save himself from any unnecessary row. His followers have much higher expectations of him.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan The views expressed are personal