On a day parliament ended its monsoon session with two-thirds of the sittings washed out, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday hit out at the BJP for stalling proceedings, inviting a retort from the opposition party that it was its democratic right to do so.
Soon after the session ended, Manmohan Singh told reporters that what was witnessed was a “total negation” of democracy and urged all “right thinking people” to stand up to say that institutions like parliament should be allowed to function.
“We take pride in the fact we had a functional democracy. But what we have witnessed in this session is total negation of that,” he said. “And all right thinking people in this country should stand up and unitedly voice that come what may, parliamentary institutions must be allowed to function with the norms as we have known them since India became independent,” he added.
Those comments immediately drew a strong retort from the BJP. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj fired back saying “the protest was also a part of democracy”. “Not allowing parliament to function is also a form of democracy like any other form,” she said, reminding the prime minister that when he was opposition leader, his party had stalled parliament over the Tehelka expose of underhand dealings in defence purchases and the alleged siphoning off of money in purchase of coffins for the 1999 Kargil war martyrs. Backing her, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley called irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks, a “textbook case of crony capitalism”.
The BJP has been demanding the prime minister’s resignation over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report that spoke of a presumptive loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore in coal blocks allocations when he was the coal minister.
On the CAG report that became the basis for the BJP attack inside parliament, Manmohan Singh said there was “great respect” for India’s official auditor but its findings have to be discussed in parliament. “We have great respect for the institution of the CAG and we do respect this institution. We must be willing to debate its finding in the Public Accounts Committee and even on the floor of parliament which we have always been willing,” he said.
“The Opposition chose not to take advantage of the settled institutional practices dealing with the reports of the CAG and insisted on disrupting parliament. “This is negation of democracy. If this thought process is allowed to gain momentum, that will be a grave violations of the norms of the parliamentary democracy,” he stressed.
“India is faced with many problems. There are problems of rising communal tensions; there are problems of regional and ethnic tensions. There are problems of terrorism and there are problems of Naxalism (Maoism).” “Parliament should have discussed these issues... The result is parliament, which is the forum where we articulate our people’s felt needs and grudges, was totally paralysed,” he added.