India’s Congress party needs young leaders, not cheering sycophants
The disruption of parliamentary proceedings in India over the past six months saw key laws being stalled, economy damaged, people’s mandate subverted and the government sabotaged.
The unfortunate saboteur-in-chief, Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, leads a wrecking crew of a few parliamentarians in blocking legislations needed to fast-track development for 1.2 billon people.
Indulging in unruly behavior that would embarrass even schoolchildren and forcing repeated adjournments, Rahul and Co have taken hostage the legislative process, if not the progress of a country.
The Congress party has in effect subverted the mandate of the 2014 elections, after being decimated from 209 to 44 Lok Sabha seats — its worst ever parliamentary election results.
But the Congress has a majority (66 seats) in the indirectly elected Rajya Sabha that is stalling bills, after the directly elected Lok Sabha passes new law proposals. To become law, a bill has to pass through the two houses of Parliament and the President of India after a thorough and painstaking study by parliamentary standing committees.
A staggering 543 potential laws are pending in Parliament since 2014.
Stalled legislation includes financial bills, crucial tax reforms, consumer protection, welfare of children and women, accident victims, compensation and transparency in land acquisition, anti-corruption laws, patents amendment, solar energy development, constitutional amendments and help to farmers.
Rahul Gandhi is perhaps unable to see the contradiction in proclaiming himself as the champion of farmers and, at the same time, blocking the passing of laws that would help them out of misery.
Also stalled are laws related to upgrading of hospitals, mental health care, Missing Children (Faster Tracking and Reuniting) Bill, 2015, Railway Security Force Bill, Witness Protection Bill, Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill, 2015, Prevention of Deaths due to Heat and Cold Waves Bill, 2015, Victims of Acid Attack, Sexually Abused and Trafficked Girls and Women (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2015, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities Bill, 2015, Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Bill, 2016, Homeless Pavement Dwellers (Welfare) Bill, 2016, Rural Electrification Authority Bill, 2012, and The Climate Change Bill, 2015.
Parliamentary records show that the time lost in adjournments and interruptions has doubled to 40 percent in the previous Lok Sabha (2009-2014) from 20 percent in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009).
But with Rahul as opposition leader, Parliament has sunk to new lows. Never before were the monsoon, winter and budget sessions consecutively disrupted.
Over one billion people suffer because one political party refuses to abide by results of the 2014 general elections.
The elections results emphasized India has had enough of family-owned political proprietorships.
The Congress house of sycophants not only clogs the heart of a democracy, but also blocks talented leaders from emerging.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, for instance, was among young leaders who helped win the general election the Congress was not expected to win in 2004. India connected with refreshing new talk about efficiency and accountability.
As communication minister in 2007, the then 37-year old Scindia accomplished a remarkable makeover of India’s postal service, creating the efficiently upgraded, Internet-networked ‘India Post’. Then the likes of Scindia were banished to backrooms after Rahul Gandhi took control of the Congress.
Rarely does a prime minister appeal to the opposition to give their talented young leaders exposure but Narendra Modi did so in his measured speech in Parliament on March 3.
Modi also said he is an inexperienced prime minister, appealed to the opposition to stop disrupting Parliament and instead give him inputs and advice. During the prime minister’s speech, Rahul Gandhi got up to leave.
Rahul’s legislative record exposes the gap between his parliamentary performance and public posturing.
The daily Question Hour in Parliament, a lively core of democracy, enables members to raise matters of importance to their constituency and the country, question ministers, and suggest beneficial ideas for administrative action.
The current 16th Lok Sabha saw 28,809 questions raised. Of them, Rahul Gandhi asked none.
In contrast, Scindia asked 347 questions, ranging from urban development (workshops for smart cities), environment, farmers, water bodies and safety of foreign tourists to wildlife conservation, National Food Grid, National Cyber Security Centre and terrorism.
In the previous Lok Sabha, parliamentarians asked 78,401 questions from 2009-2014. Of this, Rahul Gandhi’s contribution was zero.
In 12 years as parliamentarian, Rahul has asked just three questions – the last was over ten years ago, in 2005, on vocational training institutes.
And he goes around the country complaining of questions unanswered, hurling insults and wild accusations with a corporate media as cheer leader.
With a delusion-ridden leader, the Congress heads for annihilation in the next general elections. The prospect may please or sadden many, but India needs a strong opposition.
A single party getting brute majority brings the dangerous risk of letting in all manner of wolfishly lurking fringe elements, with their various crackpot and divisive agendas.
India cannot afford another dark decade like the 1990s when violent communal divides dominated over development. Much work has to be done, and India needs to get on with it.
Young leaders could cut across outdated party lines, as some are already doing in Parliament, and forge new alternatives for a new India.
They could ask themselves about their true loyalty – to their country, people, constituency, or even party? Or blindly follow someone who has lost his way in the map of life.
Parliamentarians have a privileged life in a country where millions of those who elect them struggle for basic necessities. Salaries, allowances and free facilities to legislators make a list so long it comprises 65 pages the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued on May 14, 2014. MPs are welcome to 650 pages of perks and privileges if only they kindly do the work they have been elected and sworn to do.
Raja Murthy writes for Asia Times since 2003, the Statesman since 1990, and was long-term contributor to Times of India, Economic Times, Elle etc. He shuttles between Mumbai and the Himalayas.