Hand that rocked the parliament: Voice vote destroyed the sanctity of farm bills

New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 21, 2020, 02.18 PM(IST) Written By: Kartikeya Sharma

India's parliament Photograph:( Reuters )

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In past six years, no one has ever questioned the passage of bills by voice vote in the Lok Sabha because BJP has majority in the house. BJP does not enjoy majority in the Rajya Sabha. It was incumbent on the government to pass the bill through legislation.

The passage of farm bills by voice vote and rigidness of the government to rush them through the house without discussion has brought down the dignity of the Rajya Sabha. Not only did the government fail to control the proceedings of the house, but also showed that it was in undue hurry to pass the bills. The government also did not exercise the right to send the bill to the standing commitee of the parliament. I remember when the Lok Pal bill -- which was authored by the parliamentary committee -- was passed by the Lok Sabha, it later was stalled in Rajya Sabha by the BJP. It perplexed the ruling UPA because BJP through its Lok Sabha members had made their share of suggestions.

The Opposition argued that the issue was not about the parties but about the House and the Rajya Sabha had the right to study the bill. It led to the creation of another committee which was given two weeks to submit its report.

The bill was subsequently passed.  

On the other hand, a good bill was rushed through voice vote in the Rajya Sabha, destroying its legitimacy in process. Similar patience was demonstrated in Rajya Sabha when the Women Reservation Bill was being pushed for passage. When MPs failed to cooperate and continued to disrupt the house, they were taken out of the house one by one by marshals and then BJP and Congress jointly passed the bill. All such options have been exercised in past, but it requires patience.

In past six years, no one has ever questioned the passage of bills by voice vote in the Lok Sabha because BJP has majority in the house. BJP does not enjoy majority in the Rajya Sabha. It was incumbent on the government to pass the bill through legislation. It was also required as earlier allies like, TRS, SAD and BJD had turned against the bill. Earlier, BJP had done the same by converting Aadhar as money bill which till today is sub juice.  

Moreover, the pandemonium showed that government had no idea of resolving the issue as they could have deferred the matter for Monday or Tuesday. They were afraid the Opposition would marshal numbers and embarrassed the government on the floor or in front of the media.

ALSO WATCH | Farm bills passed in Indian parliament with controversial voice vote | Rajya Sabha | WION

I support the Farm Bill as a journalist but its passage violates the spirt and rule of the House. Late Arun Jaitley used to say that Opposition must have its say and government must have its way. But in this process, the government has rocked the established practices of the House. It is the right of the Opposition to use stalling and delay as a tactic to incorporate their point of view in the proceedings.

The Opposition members also crossed the proverbial 'Lakshman Rekha' because in times of Covid-19, all norms of social distancing were done away with as they broke microphones and tried to heckle the Chair. 

Eight members were suspended the next day. Members have been suspended earlier also but no bill has been rushed without a debate like this. 

Indian agriculture sector requires reforms, but it requires better planning by the government. The ordinances could have been promulgated again but by rushing a law, the government has shown an authoritarian streak. 

If the Opposition has been irresponsible and short sighted, then the government has been undemocratic in its conduct of the House. If this is a party with difference then, this difference is certainly undemocratic and unwanted in the Indian parliamentary system.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Kartikeya Sharma

Kartikeya Sharma is Political Editor at WION. When he is not working, you will find him travelling, reading or cooking.
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