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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on Thursday led their party MPs across the country for a ‘save democracy fast and protest’ against the washout of the second part of Parliament’s Budget Session, which they blamed on the Congress. The BJP leaders across the country observed day-long fast to protest the impasse “caused” by the Opposition in Parliament, which saw a washout of the second half of the Budget Session. While many, including Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, kept to their work while fasting, several ministers, among them Prakash Javadekar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Piyush Goyal travelled to different parts of the country to sit on fast and attack the main opposition party. BJP president Amit Shah joined his party colleagues in Karnataka to protest. In the second part of the session, starting March 5, the productivity of both Houses was less than 10%. Against a long list of pending Bills, just one was passed by both Houses, the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill 2017. That was it for the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha passed three other bills related to the Budget: the Finance Bill 2018 and two Appropriation Bills. There is no denying that the Budget Session that concluded on April 6 was one of the least productive in the history of Indian Parliament. But what did the BJP’s senior leadership do to end the logjam and get the House to work?
The tactic of disrupting proceedings of Parliament has been in vogue in India for over two decades. When in Opposition, parties have routinely resorted to creating uproar stalling proceedings of the Houses, which gives an impression that the parliamentarians tend to forget a fundamental of a parliamentary government that it is described as government by discussion. They also forget another thing that by allowing for wider and more impactful participation in parliament, it is possible that some of the causes of disruptions could get addressed. The purpose of tools like question hour, zero hour is to allow the MPs to hold the government accountable for its action and to raise issues related to their constituencies and regions. By holding the Parliament ransom to one or two issues the MPs are allowing the government to get away with not having to justify its actions in many crucial areas such as health, education, employment etc.
Probably Modi must not have resorted to the Gandhian method if Congress president Rahul Gandhi had not gone on hunger strike on 9 April. It should be noted that the Congress observed a nationwide fast on April 9 to protest atrocities against Dalits and acts of communal violence across the country. Modi resorted to the fast simply for countering the Congress move. It is beyond comprehension why a prime minister, who claims to enjoy overwhelming support of the people, should opt for such action. The only plausible reason may be that he has come to comprehend that he is losing the ground. Both the ruling BJP and Congress have drawn ridicule on social media for playing competitive “fast” politics. The rival fasts will be part of the growing tussle between the parties ahead of national elections in 2019.