Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lok Sabha TV Unplugged: Is This Rahul's Telangana Power?

By Kajol Singh | INNLIVE

Lok Sabha television may project itself as a cultural star among the myriad television channels available but its essential and real purpose is to telecast the proceedings in the Lok Sabha. It is to air the proceedings of the House of the People to see how their elected representatives function at work. 

However, in a decision that is being blamed on Speaker Meira Kumar, the broadcast of proceedings in the Lower House of Parliament was stopped after 3 pm today so that the government could debate the Telangana Bill without the outside world seeing what was happening inside in real time. Protests over Telangana have continued through multiple sessions of Parliament. 
They have been unsavoury, and perhaps some of the worst in the history of Parliament, with one Member of Parliament, expelled Congress MP L Rajagopal even resorting to the use of pepper spray in order to stall proceedings when the bill was initially tabled.

The telecast of the proceedings was presumably stopped under the presumption that if it was not telecast either protesting MPs wouldn't resort to the same level of drama or that it would be believed that the protests weren't as bad as portrayed. Unfortunately, neither is true. 

The protests were on in the well of the house, and one TDP MP even stepped out to call the decision to stop the telecast a "murder of democracy" given there were allegedly "50 MPs protesting in the well of the house". We had decried the decision by the government to table the bill amidst bedlam in the house where we noted : Apparently, the UPA believes that its electoral mandate from 2009 permits it to introduce and pass a law in Parliament regardless of whether the bill is properly debated, vetted, amended to perfection and whether it at the very least has the consensus of its own cabinet members. 

If that day was about using subterfuge for tabling the legislation, today has been about ensuring that people of the nation wouldn't know how laws are passed in the country, and fooling them into believing there is a consensus on a legislation that is still very strongly contested. If the Congress does believe it has the support to pass the bill it should have the gumption to do it despite the protest and as per procedure. 

Finally the bill was passed with a voice vote amidst the din of protesting MPs. All 62 amendments were passed with no division of votes or voting on any of them except a voice vote. This is perhaps the only legislation that has been passed in this manner since Lok Sabha television began broadcasting, and if meekly accepted, it only sets a terrible precedent that can be emulated by future governments with disastrous consequences for lawmaking. 

The Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi may talk of empowering people and giving them the Right to Information to know what happened beyond closed doors. It's a pity that he's hoping for a decision taken behind closed doors to ensure that he stands a chance to come to power again.

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