written by Arati R Jerath
Even by the Narendra Modi government’s dubious standards, the ongoing winter session of Parliament is unprecedented. And it is not difficult to understand why the last vestiges of pretence at democratic engagement were dropped this time, time-honoured conventions thrown out of the window, and Parliament allowed to go into a free fall without a safety net.
There is only one thing on the government’s mind in this penultimate session before the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls early next year: to shield Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image from further damage after his ignominious retreat on the three new agricultural laws, which had agitated farmers across north India.
For Modi, Saving Face Was Crucial
For a leader who once boasted about his “56-inch chest,” the decision to roll back his own laws is a huge climbdown. Modi hoped to extricate himself from a sticky situation with an apology on national television and a vow to repeal the laws.
But there was one more hurdle to cross before he could close a chapter of his tenure he would rather forget – Parliament. This is where the government would have to go to revoke the laws as promised. This is also where the Opposition was waiting with barely disguised eagerness to put the prime minister in the dock, finally.
It is inconceivable that a government with as much hubris as the current dispensation would allow its leader to go through the humiliation of dodging brickbats in Parliament on an issue on which he is already on the backfoot. A devilish strategy was crafted to firewall him and shut down the Opposition. If Parliament became a casualty, so be it.
Previous sittings, particularly the sessions after Modi’s triumphant second coming with a bigger majority, have shown that this government has no compunctions about bending rules, bypassing established norms of parliamentary democracy, and using any means – fair or foul – to get its way.
The plan came into effect even before the session began, with Modi skipping the session-eve all-party meeting. It is not compulsory for prime ministers to attend these meetings, but it is customary. More so in this case, because the big-ticket item on the agenda of the winter session was the repeal of farm laws.