By Sunil Garodia
Faced with a Duckworth-Lewis moment in the Rajya Sabha, the NDA managed to score victory in two successive events. It got the RTI and the Triple Talaq bills passed in the upper house by deftly managing numbers. But was it good for democracy? We used to hear about such kind of things in cricket betting, where they grandiosely call it setting. In betting, any kind of setting is illegal but what the government did in the Rajya Sabha, though not illegal, was definitely immoral. There was no harm in sending the bills to the House select committee. The worst that could have happened was that they would have been delayed by a few months. But once vetted, the bills would have perhaps been better, stronger and more widely acceptable. But more than anything else, it would have been a victory for democracy. But the NDA chose to rush them through.
The Opposition parties also did not cover themselves with glory in the whole episode. They indulged in all kinds of legal parliamentary procedures to help the government get the bills passed. Walkouts, absenteeism, abstaining and cross-voting were all used as no-balls to ensure that the government did not get out. MPs of parties like Mehbooba Mufti's PDP abstained from voting during the vote for the Triple Talaq bill despite their party's vehement opposition to it. Even before the debate began, several Opposition heavyweights like Sharad Pawar were absent from the house. Many MPs of BSP, Telugu Desam, Samajwadi and NCP were similarly absent. Many other MPs, including a good number from the Congress, did the disappearing act as the debate progressed. Finally, when it came to voting, the bill was passed by 99-84.
What happened to the much-touted Opposition unity? Is the head-less and direction-less Congress to blame? Parties like the YSRCP and the TRS have a huge aversion against the Congress and if the choice is between seen to be siding with the BJP or aligning with the Congress, they are likely to choose the former. This is what happened. The BSP MPs staged a walkout to reduce the majority required and it was a big help to the NDA. Faced with such a tricky situation, most other parties completely lost the plot and their MPs followed their own paths, deserting the parties at the crucial moment. The NDA craftily punctured the Opposition unity and got the bills passed.
Further, what happened to the individual conscience of each of those MPs, let alone the whips issued by the respective parties? When speaking before the public, they lose no occasion to paint Modi as an autocrat and the BJP as a divisive force. They say that the BJP will ruin the country with its policies. But when the time comes to prevent the BJP from doing so in the Rajya Sabha (the one house where it is still in minority), do these MPs sell their conscience?