For the second time in two years, the opposition pushed through its amendment motion in Rajya Sabha. The amendment pressed on the motion of thanks to President’s address didn’t challenge anything that the President included in his address, rather curiously, it regretted that the address did not include something which, in any case, could not have been included.
The issue was Haryana and Rajasthan governments’ move to prescribe minimum educational qualification to contest panchayat elections. It was also prescribed that not having a functional toilet at home would make one disqualified to contest the elections. The opposition argued, given the literacy situation in the country, such steps are regressive as they would make a significant section of society, especially the poor and weaker sections, ineligible to contest in the election contrary to their fundamental rights to do so. And the Centre cannot keep mum in such an important issue.
The fact is that the Centre could have done little in the matter. The Haryana amendment law (regarding qualification to panchayat election) was challenged in the Supreme Court and the court made it clear that right to contest election is not a fundamental right. Further, the state legislature is the competent authority to prescribe qualification to panchayat election.
In light of the observation of the Supreme Court, the ruling party tried to reason with the opposition that the motion was factually and legally incorrect and should not be pressed. But, the opposition moved ahead, seeing it as an opportunity to embarrass the government. It chose to score brownie points, instead of being seen as a responsible opposition. It is unfortunate as they fully understand that given the legal and constitutional provisions the only way the Centre could have interfered is by taking away such powers from the state legislatures through an amendment of the constitution in complete disregard to our federal structure.
What message did the opposition want to convey through the amendment motion? It’s nothing but an assertion of numerical strength. The real unintended impact is that ruling parties would gradually ignore such amendment motions. A fine instrument in the hands of the opposition to be watchdog and conscience keeper loses its shin.
Rather, the more pertinent question is how come so many people for so long remained deprived of education and toilet facility? It’s because there are parties which do politics in the name of poor but are never interested in eliminating poverty. They will be out of political business if poverty is eliminated. The present situation is a result of such politics or rather political business.
Take for example, the case of GST. Even after consensus on most/all controversial issues, the congress is today inventing new issues to stall the passage of the GST bill. It is common knowledge that implementation of GST would increase GDP by at least one percentage point. The opposition to GST by Congress has simply remained hostage to personal interests of the Congress president and vice president. The day both were summoned by court in National Herald case, Congress leaders took turn to convey the message that now GST would go for a skywalk. Where is national interest? Wouldn’t higher GDP help more effective pro-poor welfare schemes? But no, for such parties the poor is just a means to win elections.
It is because of the legislations in Haryana and Rajasthan that the issues of illiteracy and open defecation have gained further momentum in public discussion. More than four lakh toilets were built during the recent election. The new laws also encouraging educated people, who till now were reluctant to enter politics, to come forward to take part in politics. Isn’t it enrichment of democracy?
The main opposition party should be more interested in improving living conditions of the poor in the country who have allowed them such a long run in the national politics, instead of looking to score brownie points over the government. The people of this country would not forgive Congress for obstructing the efforts of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi in whom they saw a ray of hope and voted overwhelmingly to take the nation in path of rapid progress.
Today, it is not an embarrassment that an opposition sponsored amendment motion was adopted in Rajya Sabha, but the real embarrassment is the spectra of Congress party, the grand old party of India that spearheaded the freedom struggle, putting individual interests of Party President and Vice President above national interest.