There is a legitimate apprehension in the country about whether the current Parliament session will go on or be disrupted. This is on account of a virtual breakdown of the relationship between the government and the opposition in terms of political dialogue. Obviously, such a situation is not desirable in a democracy. Consensus on various issues is possible and at times it is the pressing need of the hour. But in an environment where the government of the day survives on manipulation and creates an environment of political confrontation, consensus will always be elusive.
On December 7, 2011, the government assured both Houses of Parliament that the decision to introduce FDI in multibrand retail would remain in abeyance till the it consulted all stakeholders and arrived at a consensus. The stakeholders were described as the state governments and political parties, among others. There has been no serious effort by the government, since then, to engage political parties or state governments. When we raised this issue with the government, the answer was that the it had assured Parliament that it would consult and arrive at a consensus with political parties and state governments — it had not assured Parliament that it would consult “all” political parties and “all” state governments.
The government, obviously, was being too clever by half. As the opposition, we still relented. We assured the government that the Parliament session would function normally, provided the first item on the agenda was a discussion on FDI in multibrand retail under a voting provision. Once this debate took place, the rest of the business, including legislative business, would go on. The UPA government contrived an argument that a voting resolution on a policy matter had never taken place. We cited precedents that, in fact, Parliament had debated policy matters under a voting provision.
Why should voting be considered alien to a parliamentary democracy? In fact, democracy is a game of numbers. Voting is the essence of democracy. There has to be a parliamentary control over executive decisions. A parliamentary disapproval of executive decisions through censure motions is the normal rule. Issues cannot be merely talked out. They have to be voted on in order to determine the sovereign will. There is now a lurking suspicion that the government will not agree to a voting provision till such time that the “regular suspects” among the loyal opposition parties have been managed, either to vote