MPs frustrated over parliament logjam, but toe party line

Friday, December 10, 2010

NEW DELHI - With the winter session of parliament set to end without transacting any business because of a bitter government-opposition standoff, many MPs are simply frustrated. Some of the younger parliamentarians are unhappy they are not able to do any parliamentary work since the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have been badly crippled for three long weeks over the 2G spectrum allocation row.

But no one is willing to challenge the diktat of their own parties.

Ashok Tanwar, the Congress member from Sirsa in Haryana, said a lot of people felt that time, money and energy were wasted by daily adjournments.

“We are first-timers and are here to learn,” Tanwar told IANS. “It is a totally different kind of learning experience. We are really frustrated at times.”

Probed further, he sided with the government, whose refusal to announce a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the spectrum row has led the opposition to parlayse parliament.

The Samajwadi Party’s Dharmendra Yadav, elected from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, said the opposition wants parliament to function but the government was adamantly refusing to accept “our demand for JPC”.

“Our demand is in the national interest. JPCs have been constituted on lesser scams. The government is guilty somewhere,” Yadav said.

At the heart of the controversy is disgraced former communications minister A. Raja, who quit the cabinet last month after being accused of giving away 2G spectrum at below the market price, causing huge losses to the national exchequer.

At least one Lok Sabha member, K. Mani of the Kerala Congress (Mani), fears that the stalemate — unprecedented in Indian parliamentary history — may extend to the next budget session too.

But Mani is keeping himself busy. “Parliament or no parliament, there is no dearth of visitors for me,” said Mani, a management graduate.

“Even without parliament work, my days are busy. I spend a lot of time accompanying delegations (from Kerala) to government offices here to speed up developmental projects,” he said.

No parliament also means that Mani can catch up with reading — his hobby.

P. Rajeev, a Rajya Sabha member from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), squarely blamed the Congress for the logjam.

“Our days are still full,” he said. After protests that last till noon, he gets busy with party work.

What does he think of the loss of taxpayers’ money due to the deadlock? “That loss is just a drop in the sea of corruption linked to major scams.”

The opposition, whose members every day troop towards the speaker’s podium raising slogans, says it is the government that is at fault.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Shahnawaz Hussain said the opposition was not keen on getting the houses adjourned.

“The strength of the opposition is reflected when the house functions. Adjournments help the government,” he said.

But if the opposition did not press for a JPC, the government will not accept the demand, he added.

“They will continue to indulge in corruption and keep ignoring the house. We are not in parliament to clap for the government.”

Some opposition members pointed out that even a section of the ruling alliance is slowly speaking in favour of a JPC.

P.T. Thomas of the Congress felt that the opposition’s aggression was tarnishing the image of parliament.

“Already there is much scepticism among the public about the functioning of parliament and the level of politics we indulge in,” he said.

But he praised the Congress decision asking MPs not to accept the daily allowance from parliamnet since no work was being transacted.

“It was the right decision,” Thomas said.

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