Amid much fanfare, jubilation and delight the Prime Minister recently laid down the foundation stone for a new parliamentary building. The new building makes sense as the older one, though resilient, has lived past its utility. Lack of technological infrastructure, huge maintenance and upkeep costs and constraints with respect to future expansion of membership vindicates the government’s stand.
The government, however, has missed the woods for the trees. While the wear and tear of the existing parliament building is palpably apparent, what has been unapologetically discounted is the sheer deterioration of the Parliament as an institution.
In our constitutional scheme of things, the Parliament assumes the pre-eminent position. India adopted a model of parliamentary democracy where the representatives elected by “we the people” are required to legislate, hold accountable the government, discuss matters of public importance and present ideals for people to look up to.
A careful analysis of Parliament’s working record over the years will lay bare the harsh realities that it has been diligently perverted to annul all that the framers of the constitution envisioned.
The legislating capabilities of the parliament are outsourced to the bureaucracy, with parliament merely playing a procedural role by assuring the the requisite number to pass the bills. Most of our bills seldom witness informed debates. Many a times budgets are passed with little or no discussions, with a major portion effectively guillotined.
Policies and matters are not discussed to further public interest but to harden political positions. Unruly scenes of provocations, pandemonium and chaos mark the workings of the Parliament. MPs far from coming out as role-models, come across as villainous elements fit for censure and denunciation.
Then there are issues of defections. The anti-defection laws are the classic case of remedy being worse than the malady. Anti-defection laws have stifled genuine criticism of the government and promoted a culture of impunity for the executive to ride roughshod on the basis of numerical strength gaged and muzzled by the anti defection statutes.
The Parliament is regarded as the Temple of democracy. But, the way it has been run since its inception, it will not be an exaggeration to say that the temple lies defiled and desecrated by the very people who were elected to uphold its sanctity.
The new building is welcome, it is a necessity of time. However it will only be a new soulless structure, for the spirit of parliamentary conventions died long ago. It will just be a new building constructed upon the invaluable ruins of representative democracy.