It is now about two months since the new Government has taken office. The regular administration goes on and one really cannot find any difference which Government is in power—the Government is run by bureaucrats, the police, the system goes on. The Budget came, which gave the first policy indication of the Government. The general reading is that it is a ‘carrying on’ Budget, not much different from the previous Governments’ Budgets. However, how it is implemented during the year and how the various schemes are implemented will show whether there is any change on the ground. It is too early to comment.
However, on the general political scene there are two things to note: as far as the Government is concerned, it is very inactive on the international front. Recently, a large amount of killing and murder started between Israel and Palestine. In the Rajya Sabha, the External Affairs Minister made an astounding statement that we should not discuss this issue because both Israel and Palestine are our friends and we should not be discourteous to any of them. It is not possible that a word like ‘discourteous’ has slipped in into the statement. There is no discourtesy; we are a sovereign nation and a democratic one. Our Parliament must discuss international issues freely and fairly. There’ll be members who will be for Israel, there’ll be members who will be for Palestine, there’ll be members who want peace. After discussion it is quite possible to take a fair, objective view and pass a resolution. Why the Government was shying away from that is a mystery. But that apart, the issue is, in international relations we must have a strong foreign office to guide the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister himself has got good relations with China and he is going to Japan. But overall, India had a pre-eminent position earlier in the affairs of nations across the world. That went on diminishing. Of course there is no use remembering the days of Jawaharlal Nehru when India was comparatively a weak economy, but his advice was sought by the UN Secretary General and by everybody on all issues, whether they concerned India or not. Those days are gone, but still India has an important role to play. We have one-sixth of the world’s population, we are the second largest country in the world, we are an emerging economy. Of course the Prime Minister has done well in BRICS by announcing, by having good consultations with the leaders and a good initiative has come in the form of the new development bank. But a lot needs to be done to consolidate our views and our approach to foreign policy matters. That is as far as the Government goes. Now the Opposition. It is really sad that a hundred year old party like the Congress party does not understand that the post of the Leader of the Opposition (LOP) cannot go to them because they don’t have 10 per cent of the strength of the House.
I am surprised even senior Congress leaders keep on saying ‘if they don’t give we will go to court’. This is a joke. Parliament is sovereign, the court cannot interfere, and a party like the Congress party instead of protecting the rights of Parliament wants to dilute it by going to court? The court will have the last laugh. The Supreme Court judges will enjoy that ‘see, we are more sensible than you people are’. It is not a good trend at all. There is one point though in support of the Congress party, and that is, earlier the post of the Leader of the Opposition was just a post with some perquisites. Now in selecting the CBI Director, the CVC, etc, the Supreme Court has laid down that the Leader of the Opposition should be consulted. When there is no Leader of the Opposition, what happens? For that limited issue one can go to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has three options: either nobody will represent the Opposition or the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha will represent the Opposition or the leader of the largest party in the Lok Sabha will represent the Opposition. There is no difficulty in it. It is a very small matter that can be resolved without any difficulty. But to go on asking for the post of Leader of the Opposition as a matter of right is not a good thing to do; it is a bad precedent; it sets a bad example and Parliament itself comes out in poor light.
Beyond Parliament I am surprised that the non-Congress, non-BJP parties are still not doing much. I think they should all get together. Nitish and Lalu are coming together in Bihar which is a good sign, and I have now read that the Congress wants to join them, which is a good sign. Elections have come and gone, there will be elections again after five years. One should start to consolidate the polity. After all there are so many States in India ruled by different parties. There is no need for demoralisation. All the people if they believe in their democratic, secular, socialist values, they must get together, make a policy document and present an alternative to the people. After all the Government has come to power on very big promises; nobody can fulfill all the promises made. So the BJP, even at its highest point in its five years can only score less marks, not more. But the other parties, just because the Congress got 44 MPs, they don’t have to be demoralised. Other parties are even smaller and the Left – the Left has an important role to play in India politics. Even CPI and CPM should think of merging. The Left should also consolidate itself. The Indian polity itself is in a state of churning. It will be a sad day if everybody gives up their efforts and just like the neo-liberalised economic policy has become acceptable to everybody, if secularism also suffers, the country itself will suffer. So right thinking people with parties big or small, they must work towards making, concretising a policy acceptable to large sections of the people.