A Moral Failure

A Moral Failure

Context: This editorial talks about how the suspension from the House of a large number of Opposition Members of Parliament in the Winter Session underlines the institutional weakening of our political system.

Which factors contribute to the institutional weakening of our political system?
• Suspension of MP’s
• Parliament turning into a zone of conflict where established norms of discussions are being set aside
• The ruling party invokes the House rules to supersede the parliamentary customs and conventions simply to get rid of the Opposition while the Opposition uses the act of disruption as a legitimate political technique

Which factors have been held responsible for this political crisis?

1. The idea of legislative discussion has lost its political significance. How?
• Recent analysis of parliamentary proceedings show that MPs always adhere to party-line and/or the compulsion of a coalition/block to make any comment, criticism or observation.
• Except for a few MPs, who still research to ask questions or make comments, a significant majority of lawmakers usually do not make any meaningful contribution to legislative discussions. The failure of parliamentarians to evolve a culture of mutual learning through healthy discussions and deliberations has weakened the democratic capability of Parliament as the supreme legislative body.

2. The professionalization of politics
• Democratic politics in India inherited values from its national movements prior to independence. Earlier democratic politics was always defined as a form of social service.
• However, the requirements of electoral competition, gave concrete practical meanings to this imagination of politics. Factors such as caste, religion and regional identity were recognised as powerful tools to make winnable configurations of voters. At the same time, such professional moves were justified in the name of moral ideals — socialism, nationalism, cultural unity and even emotional integration.

3. Change in outlook towards Politics
• It is seen as a Profession to gain power and achieve upward mobility.

4. Decline of Political morality
• The Constitution expects legislators to evolve a political value-system so as to make themselves collectively accountable and responsible.
• However, the manner in which the Rules to conduct legislative business have been invoked this time is deeply problematic. These Rules, we must remember, are based on constitutional principles. Their imposition without any reference to larger democratic principles makes them politically inappropriate and logically unsustainable.

• The enthusiastic electoral participation of voters in general elections confirm that the people, whom the Constitution recognizes as the real sovereign, expect Parliament to protect and nurture democratic values. The political class should pay attention to this popular sentiment.

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