Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'I don’t give a damn' attitude

Stalling of Parliament is a manifestation of growing intolerance in the country. The UPA has behaved in a disgraceful way and the opposition has a point. However, they don't allows the Government to function properly. The ruling Congress, at the same time blames the Opposition for not letting Parliament function. It gives out the impression that cheap stunts matter than performance, writes Ravi Shanker Kapoor .

The Opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties, continue to stall Parliament to press their demand that a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) be instituted to look into the controversial allocation of 2G spectrum. While the anger of the Opposition is justified over the loot of public money, not allowing Parliament to function is tantamount to undermining the very concepts of democracy, individual liberty, and tolerance.

There is no denying the fact that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has behaved in a disgraceful manner, in not only letting A. Raja continue as telecom minister in the face of growing evidence about his less than proper conduct but also in thwarting his prosecution.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said, “The entire process of allocation of 2G spectrum raises serious concern about the systems of governance in the Department of Telecommunications which need to be thoroughly reviewed and revamped. The fact that there has been loss to the national exchequer in the allocation of 2G spectrum cannot be denied.”

The Opposition clearly has a point. It has every right to take the Government to task for its sins of omission and commission; for this purpose, it can use the country’s biggest forum, Parliament. But, ironically, BJP and other Opposition leaders do not allow it to function. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “Congress is running away from the JPC and we have decided to stick to our demand. It has been three weeks now that Parliament is not functioning.” Earlier, he had said, “Congress is fully responsible for the impasse in Parliament.”

The ruling Congress, on its part, blames the Opposition for not letting Parliament function.

The most important feature of this blame-game is that all parties are convinced stalling Parliament is not wrong if they deem an issue to be big enough to doing that. In the wake of the Tehelka row when the BJP was in office, the Congress also did not allow Parliament to function; and now, the BJP and other parties think that the 2G scam, the Adarsh housing scandal, and the irregularities in Commonwealth Games warrant their disruptions in both Houses.

But the point is that there will always be issues which one party or the other would find of overwhelming consequence; there would always be something or other that, the Opposition would claim, proves the moral turpitude of those sitting on the Treasury benches. In fact, anything can be construed or misconstrued as great betrayal by the government of the day. Would that always justify the stalling of Parliament?

At the heart of the controversy is our politicians’ belief that good oration and cogent arguments do not matter in our democracy, while cheap stunts like rushing to the well and loud sloganeering do.

I do not argue because I am convinced that my stand is correct and righteous—and that of my opponents is incorrect and willful. It also means that I need not listen to them.

I am convinced that I know all the facts—and my opponents are hopelessly in error. I am convinced that I know everything that is worth knowing—and my opponents are groping in the dark. And since my position is impeccable and infallible, I have a right (even duty) to enlighten the world about my views—which are actually statements of facts, if not gospel truths. It is in my exercise of this right that I don’t allow others to speak. There cannot be any dialogue among the self-righteous.

Further, politicians seem to believe that the people of India do not care about good arguments and articulate speeches; so, in order to impress the electorate, they indulge in theatrics.

Their cantankerousness reminds me of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s famous 1862 speech: “Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided… but by iron and blood.”

Thankfully, our political masters are not yet talking about a policy of “iron and blood.” But are they far from it? In the absence of speeches, debates, and discussions, don’t we stand to become an unthinking society?

Intolerance is a natural product in this milieu, and we find it grow in every walk of life. Unsurprisingly, it is often promoted by politicians and their front organizations. Somebody feels that the works of Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen may offend the Muslims, so they are banned or curtailed. Somebody else feels that the paintings of M.F. Hussain blaspheme the Hindu pantheon, so the artist is in the line of fire. A nanny-like minister tries to ban smoking in cinema and on television. The scion of the Thackeray family seeks a high-visibility launch, and a university is forced to withdraw a book from the syllabus. Many more instances can be quoted showing how politicians are bulldozing others in not only the political arena but also in literature, arts, cinema, culture, etc.

The politician of India doesn’t care two hoots for others; his attitude reminds me of Rhett Butler’s famous line in Gone With The Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” Paralyzing Parliament is just the most conspicuous manifestation of the political class’ mindset.

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