Excerpts from Barun Mitra's piece on disrupted democracy:
- It is time to recognise that disruptions in Parliament are not just a reflection of the declining political acumen of our time. Enlightened political leadership may help, but will not be able to deal with the symptoms. The real root of this parliamentary disease is the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, popularly known as the anti-defection law that was passed in 1986, with almost total unanimity across the political class and the intelligentsia.
- This anti-defection law has empowered political parties at the cost of democratic debate, particularly within Parliament, since defying a party whip can lead to disqualification from the House. Since MPs can’t vote as per the merit of the debate, but must follow the party diktat, there is no reason for MPs to prepare for a debate. Consequently, many MPs don’t even bother to attend the House during important debates. And if MPs can’t debate meaningfully, then disruption becomes the main form of registering one’s opposition.
- Let us stop bemoaning the loss of parliamentary discourse, look at the root of the present problem, and try to revive good parliamentary practices. Here are a few suggestions. First, restrict the party whip and invocation of anti-defection law to money bills and confidence votes. Second, a no-confidence vote must be accompanied by a confidence vote on an alternative leader of the House and government, so that each term of the Lok Sabha can run its full mandate of five years. Third, a mid-term poll can only be called if two-thirds of the members of the House supports the motion. Fourth, allow debate on all major issues, and extend sitting of the House where necessary to allow members to express their opinion. Fifth, allow members to vote on issues and legislations as per their conscience. Sixth, even if the government loses a vote on a specific issue, this need not reduce its capacity and legitimacy to function effectively. Finally, allow the government to pursue its policies, let the ruling side argue its case, and win back the support of a majority of MPs