The first session of the Indian parliament post the general elections 2019 witnessed some of the most watched and discussed debates in the recent times during the motion of thanks on the President’s address of both the houses. It has been a long time since we have experienced some worthy debates on the floors of the parliament. The political discourse had never been conducive for healthy discussions among the members of both the houses. However, it seems that there has been some improvement in the quality of debates. Barring some unparliamentary remarks from both the sides, the ruling and the opposition MPs have made their presence felt. People may have differed in their views, but an argument based on facts and figures attracts the attention of a broader audience. It was also very pleasing to see some new speakers. Take the case of Mahua Moitra of TMC. After a long time, we saw someone speaking with conviction. Even though this was her maiden speech in the parliament and was subjected to interruptions by the ruling MPs, it was an impressive speech. She was articulate, to the point and handled the interruptions by pointing to the speaker that parliament is not a place for professional heckling. Smart, fierce, knowledgeable, and equally capable of speaking in Bengali, English, and Hindi, she was the one to watch for. Think of a Bengali parliamentarian, who spoke fluently in Hindi!!!
Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM spoke with a lot of passion. He brought out the issues of triple Talaq, mob lynching, and nationalism. He argued about what happens to Muslim women when the husband is in jail and also why the government is taking a different stand on Sabarimala.
One more MP who took us by surprise was Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of INC. He has always been a dakabuko (fearless) in his approach to politics. However, being the newly appointed leader of the Congress party in the 17th Lok Sabha, he mixed humor with punches to attack the government on several issues. Hopefully, Congress will use him effectively, both inside and outside of the parliament.
As always the inimitable Ramdas Athawale of the Republic Party of India (A) was in his best by infusing poetry. He never shies away from accepting the changing sides of his political lineage. He brought about the much needed relief to the house with his sense of humor.
Mr. Pratap Swarng of BJP, the new social media star because of his simplicity, was rather flattering in his speech by comparing PM Modi with Swami Vivekananda. In his multilingual speech, he also raised the issues of Vande Mataram during his remarks.
Finally, Mr. Modi was his usual best. He spoke for more than an hour and rebutted the opposition remarks with wit and sarcasm. Hopefully, the Prime Minister comes along often in the discussion and sends strong messages as he did in the Rajya Sabha against the mob-lynching in Jharkhand. Hope that he also walks the talk and not only sees the ground, but also feels and heals the ground.
Arun Jaitley of BJP, one of the most exceptional speakers over the last few parliamentary sessions, was missed though.
For a vibrant and functioning democracy, which can bring meaningful changes to the lives of billions of people in India, we need a genuinely democratic and working parliament, which will reflect the aspirations of the people. It should be inclusive, pluralistic, and at the same time futuristic to meet not only the issues in hand but also capable of mitigating the impending challenges. The policy framework needs an environment of healthy discussions, but at the same time, people should not stall a bill for the sake of opposition. Both the government and the opposition have their rights, but the objective should be to work towards the betterment of the country. A healthy debate can bring meaningful insights into the crayon of law-making. The beginning has been good so far, let us hope it stays its course throughout the next five years and the country can be proud of its policymakers. We have often missed the bus. Time is not only to catch the bus but provide a secure and fast ride to its destination for a developed and democratic nation in its true sense.
- Prof. Debasis Rooj, Associate Professor – Economics & Prof. Reshmi Sengupta, Associate Professor – Economics