Parliamentary Spirit In Peril

Union Budget

By Sunil Dang

It’s almost one month since the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget on the floor of the parliament. However, to my utmost surprise, there was no customary debate over the budget during the budget session. While to some extent, the opposition parties are also responsible for this, but this skipping of the budget debate would mainly be considered a failure of the speakers of both the houses of the Parliament.. What I could perceive from the gesture and posture of our parliamentarians, they are more in mood of ruckuses than holding the true spirit of their duties as representatives of the people of India. They were even found trying to avoid the question hour that helps lawmakers to put the grievances of their constituencies on the floor of the house.

Various critics, economists and media houses have delivered their verdict on the Union Budget 2018 but that does not relieve our public representatives of their responsibility to showcase their views on the budget and discuss its pros and cons. Most astonishing part of it was witnessed in constitutional committees where a lawmaker is paid additionally for his or her job as committee member or the chairman. On one hand, our representatives are found avoiding parliamentary proceedings while on the other hands, they selectively make sure they attend the proceeding of various constitutional committees.

In my recent meeting with a former Finance Minister, his grief surfaced in our discussion. The ex- finance Minister was questioning about the size of the budget, 24 lakh crore, as the revenue source of this amount is not identified in the budget. The opposition leaders did not try fishing out this information from the government. To my surprise, there were 106 demands in this budget and only 78 were met. This mismatch of demand and grant is not new but during debate over the budget, the Finance Minister makes the house known as to what parameters were used to grant permission to the demands and why rest of the demands failed to make a cut into the budget list. It’s worthy to mention to our readers that the Budget 2018 doesn’t give details of the heads under which this amount would be spend. The Finance Minister made a fine tuned speech about fund allocations to various demands; however, he chose to remain mum on the concrete heads for various expenditures. Hence, I can only imagine to the distress our economists would have had to endure in giving out forecasts of fiscal deficit and growth based upon the current budget.

At a time, when the opposition is failing to make its opinion public from the floor of the house, I would like to point out that boycott as a tool should only be used when there is no way out. It should not be the first tool to force their demands being met by the government. In fact, government wants the whole opposition to boycott the parliamentary proceedings so that their performance won’t be evaluated. Hence, some of the representative sitting in the ruling benches would deliver some egregious remarks to irk the opposition benches forcing them to sloganeering or boycott of the parliamentary proceedings. Hence, by toeing such tool for cornering the government, the opposition is, in fact, walking into the trap of the ruling coalition. On the other hand, the ruling party is painting the opposition as non-cooperative and obstructionist. So, it’s high time for the opposition to mend its fences with the government and force the respective speakers of both houses to conduct parliamentary proceedings and use the parliamentary platform to evaluate the government performance on various fronts.