The Big Picture- Can Media Platforms be Alternatives to the Parliament
The Winter Session of Parliament has witnessed disruptions and chaos as the Opposition raised issue of demonetization in both the Houses. Since the Winter Session of Parliament in 2013, this session has recorded maximum number of lost hours. According to PRS Legislative research figures, Lok Sabha has seen only 15% productivity and Rajya Sabha only 18% productivity of the available time. This has resulted in almost total washout of the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. The focus of politicians these days is to make statement outside the Parliament rather than discussing on the crucial issues within the confines of Parliament.
Media platforms cannot replace the Parliament because both are essential parts of democracy and both have separate functions. One is legislative body discussing policies, decisions and laws to be made. Media is supposed to project or shape public opinion which can influence all the institutions. Both are needed by the society and public. Parliament forces accountability over the Government to the MPs and people through the MPs. Press adds to the power of the people to enforce accountability of the decision makers. What is happening is Parliament gets adjourned and they rush to the media. If Parliament passes laws in peace, media’s role will be reporting and analyzing the deliberations later on. Media needs sound bites and it is not discussing the issues through those sound bites.
This is not a good precedent being set up. Earlier also there were issues but they were discussed in Parliament and the Government was answerable to the Parliament. It was in the late 90s that some kind of protests started taking place inside the House because of lack of responsiveness from the Government but now things have escalated. This itself has become a kind of protest now. In no Parliament in the world, complete session gets washed out. Positions are taken not on merit of the issue but on personal convenience. Politicians need to behave and take stand on the issues irrespective of their own benefits and media needs to play a role here. They are subverting the democratic procedure because treasury benches’ disrupting the proceedings is unprecedented.
Parliamentarians are not realizing the importance of the functions they perform. Parliament will lose credibility this way. The forum for discussion and passing the laws has to be the floor of Parliament whether the opposition or the Government’s case is strong. This behavior however is not seen in committee meetings because it is not open for telecast to put an impact on viewers.
The present Government has majority in the Lok Sabha. There is a general tendency in the Governments to not allow Adjournment motion or Censure motion. Adjournment motion is introduced in the Parliament to draw attention of the House to a definite matter of urgent public importance, and needs the support of 50 members to be admitted. As it interrupts the normal business of the House, it is regarded as an extraordinary device. It involves an element of censure against the government and hence Rajya Sabha is not permitted to make use of this device. Government has nothing to be afraid of here.
It would give satisfaction to the Opposition that it has raised this motion. Stopping this will only aggravate the situation. Similarly if the Opposition demands a motion under Rule 184 in which the motion for which notice is being given, complies with the stipulations in the rule, then it should be allowed. The presiding officer has to be conscious of the rights of the Opposition as well. Government does not like to see dissent being voiced in the Parliament. The culture of thoroughness is missing. Even during pre emergency days, some of the good Bills were accepted from the Swatantrata Party which was in Opposition. Tolerance of dissent is very important.
If every critic of the Government is termed anti-national or ill motivated or inspired from across the border, then there cannot be certainly healthy discussion. In a democracy or history as such, people come and go but institutions are important. The countries and civilizations are important. Institutional decay of Parliament must not happen. Both Parliament and media are cornerstones of democratic structure. Media is behaving in the most funny manner particularly the electronic media in this regard.
Main issue in this sesion of the Parliament was PM’s participation in the proceedings regarding demonetization. Prime Minister has a constitutional duty to come to the House, explain the decisions that he has taken to both the Houses because he is the person who is in charge for ensuring executive accountability to Parliament. Prime Minister has this constitutional obligation. Prime Minister moving out of the House when there is a ruckus is no solution without getting it back into order. Particularly on an issue like demonetization, he has to be in the House which put an impact on each and every citizen of the country. Consensus has to be arrived at for various issues on every policy as well as in running the Parliament also which should come from Prime Minister himself. If people lose faith in Parliament, the consequences would be disastrous.