Sandeep Sahu

66 minutes! That is all the business the Odisha Assembly has been able to transact in the first six days of its ongoing winter session. And the way things are going, this session looks destined to go the way the last several sessions have gone – end well before the scheduled closure on December 31, perhaps as soon as the Appropriation Bill is passed by the House.

There is no point trying to apportion blame on one side because both sides are equally culpable in ensuring that no business is transacted in the House. For the treasury benches, an Assembly session appears to be an unwelcome compulsion that has to be somehow gone through to fulfill constitutional requirements. The only point of interest for them is the passing of Bills, with or without the Opposition (preferably the latter so that there is no discussion on them in the House). Notwithstanding its customary pre-session boast that it is ‘ready to face any issue’, the ruling party does everything it can to wriggle out of debate on issues that have the potential to embarrass the government.

A perusal of the record of the last several sessions of the Assembly shows that the ruling party has invariably found one excuse or the other to wind up the session well before the scheduled closure. Sessions scheduled for a month have been adjourned after just 8-10 days on the specious ground that there is no ‘legislative business left’. One wonders why is the House scheduled for 20-30 days in the first place when there is not enough ‘legislative business’ for the House to last that long?

As for the Opposition, stalling the proceedings in the House appears to have become an end in itself – and not a means to draw attention to an issue. Nothing illustrates this point better than the fact that it refused to take part in the debate on the adjournment motion on the probe into the Mamita Meher murder case moved by the Congress, which had been scheduled for discussion on Tuesday. Rather than take part in the debate, party legislators chose to do a ‘parikrama’ of the Assembly with placards in their hands and slogans on their lips. On their part, the BJP members beat gongs and cymbals in what they said was an effort to wake the Chief Minister and the Leader of the House from his ‘deep slumber’.

What really took the cake was the sprinkling of holy water by both the Opposition and the ruling party in an apparent bid to ‘purify’ the ‘temple of democracy’. First the BJP and then the Congress sprinkled gangajal in the House, which had been supposedly desecrated by the presence of minister of state for home Dibya Shankar Mishra, the demand for whose resignation has stalled proceedings since the beginning of the session. Not to be left behind, the BJD has now emulated the Opposition by doing the same so that ‘good sense prevails on Opposition members’. The irony of it is obviously lost on both sides. Someone should tell the honourable members – from both sides – that the ‘temple of democracy’ is desecrated not by the presence of a member but by the antics that have been on display in every session in the last few years. In doing what they are doing inside the House, the members are not only making caricatures of themselves and reducing the ‘temple of democracy’ to cheap street theatre, but also mocking at the people who have elected them.

The one man who could have, if he so wanted, broken the logjam – the Leader of the House – seems the least interested in what transpires in the Assembly. As the Opposition has rightly pointed out, the fact that he continues to roam the whole state – to distribute BSKY smart cards – but stays away from the Assembly shows the respect he has for the ‘temple of democracy’.

With none of the stakeholders keen on the smooth and uninterrupted conduct of proceedings, ‘we the people’ are condemned to seeing the farce that has passed off as an Assembly session in future too.

Whose Assembly is it anyway?

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)