15th Lok Sabha session: The shame finally ends

Feb 22, 2014, 08:01 IST | Agencies

New Delhi: After pepper spray, scuffles and table smashing, Lok Sabha ended its final session before general elections in acrimony on Friday, setting the stage for a bitter poll campaign.

Friday marked the end of the 15th Lok Sabha session. This has been the most disruptive session
Friday marked the end of the 15th Lok Sabha session. This has been the most disruptive session

The Lok Sabha did at least manage to pass some legislation in its final weeks, but its most notable achievement - approval for the creation of the state of Telangana - took place out of the public eye after the live television feed was cut as tempers erupted on the floor of the house.

The 15th Lok Sabha session will go down in the history as the most disrupted in independent India so far. However, in a speech before parliament on Friday, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde tried to put a gloss on its work, pointing out that a landmark food security bill had been passed last year and proclaiming that ‘many historic incidents happened in this session’.

Wasted Hours

Number of Hours Lok Sabha has worked over the years
Number of Hours Lok Sabha has worked over the years

But a more brutal assessment came from his cabinet colleague Shashi Tharoor who said the behaviour of parliamentarians had plumbed to an all-time low. “The ‘temple of democracy’, as Indians have long hailed their parliament, has been soiled by its own priests, and is now in desperate need of reform,” he wrote for the Project Syndicate website.

Hartosh Singh Bal, a veteran political commentator, said, “These have been (the) worst five years of India’s parliamentary political history... If Jawaharlal Nehru had come back today, he’d have been shocked and saddened.” Politicians from all sides said the public deserved better, with BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman saying that it ‘doesn’t augur well’ for faith in parliamentary democracy.

Bills passed

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill
Parliament yesterday passed the a bill which simplifies the regulations for procuring and possessing narcotic drugs like morphine for medicinal purposes. The law will bring relief to thousands of cancer patients in the country who use another psychoactive chemical opioid for acute and chronic pain relief.

Whistle Blowers Protection Bill
Parliament passed the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill with the Rajya Sabha giving its nod on the last day of the last parliamentary session of the UPA-II government. The bill, which provides for protection of whistleblowers, will now become law after the president’s assent.

The bill seeks to establish a mechanism to register complaints on any allegations of corruption or wilful misuse of power against a public servant. It also provides safeguards against victimisation of the person who makes the complaint.

Food Security Act
The Food Security Act (FSA), passed by Parliament last year, proposes to cover up to 75 per cent of the rural population and up to 50 per cent of the urban population. They will be entitled to five kgs of food grains per person per month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 2 and 3 per kg for wheat and rice, respectively.

Telangana Bill
Rajya Sabha on Thursday approved the bill to divide Andhra Pradesh in the face of repeated adjournments and continuous disruptions and sloganeering.

Bills not cleared

Disability Rights bill
Parliament session ended without passing the Disability Rights bill. “This is an extremely sad day for us (disabled in the country) and it is very unfortunate that the political leaders despite making promises and assurances did not make efforts to pass the bill in parliament,” said Javed Abidi, convenor, Disability Rights Group.

Women’s Reservation Bill
Several women’s rights organisations have expressed dismay over non-passage of the bill. The Women’s Reservation Bill demands the political inclusion of women through a 33 per cent reservation of seats mandate through Parliamentary elections. This has been a long-standing demand of over 17 years.

PM addresses Parliament, one last time
Addressing parliament for the last time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the general elections would give people an opportunity to form a new sense of consensus that would take the country on to new pathways.

In his address, he said that in parliamentary proceedings there are bound to be differences among parties, “but there must also be ways and means to bring pathways, to bring minimum amount of consistency and reconciliation so that matters can move forward”.

He said he has witnessed that on crucial matters Parliament “has the capacity and the will to rise above partisan strife and find pathways of national reconciliation... The manner in which the state of Telangana is being born is another indication that this country is capable of taking some of the most difficult decisions without any rancour and without worrying too much about the pros and cons about the things that do not matter.

And we can take pride in the fact that the state whose quest of being born was pending for the last 60 years is ultimately seeing the light of day.” PM’s wife Gursharan Kaur watched the proceedings from the speaker’s gallery. She said, “The 10 years have been a great learning experience.”

Politicians speak
When history will be written, it will be recorded that the 15th Lok Sabha saw the highest number of obstructions, but on the other side it passed some of the most awaited bills. My brother (Parliament Affairs Minister) Kamal Nath sometimes stirred trouble with his mischief, (Home Minister Sushilkumar) Shinde ji used to resolve it with his decency.

Between this mischief and decency was Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, the mild-mannered prime minister, the speaker’s patience and LK Advani’s sense of justice, these are what kept the house ticking. - Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha

Sushmaji sometimes gets so angry that I get worried that she will stop talking to me. But the moment she leaves the house, the sweetness in her words can’t be matched even by mithais. - Sushilkumar Shinde, Home Minister

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