A parliament in limbo

India parliament The ongoing session has been deadlocked

The economy is crawling and inflation is nudging close to double digits. Food prices are going up. Key legislation which could help crack down on corruption needs to be tackled. The demand for a new state of Telangana hangs fire.

Yet the parliament of the world's largest democracy remains in limbo.

With the opposition protesting against retail reforms and forcing adjournments every day, the winter session that began on 22 November has failed to launch. There are 31 bills to be considered and passed, including the key anti-corruption bill.

At this rate, one wonders whether any of this will happen and whether parliament will simply shut down prematurely this winter.

At its current pace, this 15th session of the parliament - which began in 2009 - may be the "most disrupted in 25 years", according to respected watchdog PRS Legislative Research.

Parliament overall has sat for only 72% of its allotted 800 hours. Only 57 of 200 bills planned have been passed so far. Some 17% of the bills passed until the end of the monsoon session this year were debated for less than five minutes. Running parliament, according to one estimate, costs 2.5 million rupees ($49,000) in taxpayer's money every hour. Imagine the losses.

It's a sad reflection on a bicameral parliament that has a reputation for being one of the most vibrant in the world.

It has produced a stupendous amount of legislation - the first 12 parliaments passed nearly 2,500 bills. More than 100,000 questions - in oral and written form - were allowed during the 11th parliament alone, up from less than 50,000 in the first.

But all that seems to be history now. Many are asking how India can be called the world's largest democracy when its parliament, the highest representative body of a billion people, appears to be so dysfunctional.

Critics like lawyer Rajeev Dhavan believe that "it is a disservice to democratic governance to bring parliament to a grinding halt, paralyse its working and hold it to ransom unless demands, however justified, are met".

But a small number of people also believe that, far from being undemocratic, disruptions actually foster democratic values and representation.

Disruption of parliament is not new. Writing in 2006, well-known writer and commentator Khushwant Singh almost predicted its demise. "The more I see of the way our two houses of parliament conduct their 'business', the more I feel that our parliamentary system of governance is on the verge of collapsing," he wrote.

That may not happen soon, but when nothing gets done in the nation's highest body for so long a time, the credibility of the institution itself is hurt. At a time when public faith in most institutions is at an all time low, this is seriously bad news.

Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

Did Kashmir 'abandon' its flood-hit people?

Omar Abdullah says the government was caught off-guard, but the BBC's Soutik Biswas considers whether Kashmir could have learned lessons from other Indian states' flood response.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    people should look at the actual situation in sri lanka! its a disaster here. Even though politicians keep roaring about low inflation and investing opportunities investor's confidence has been taken down to an drastic condition.stock market is manipulated by politicians! dominant countries should look into this situation where most of the innocent investors loose their money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    As the Indian system of politics relies heavily on scoring brownie points against opposing parties, rather than showing maturity and vision, the 'collapse' of the parliament as predicted by Khushwant Singh may come about sooner than imagined. An example is the furore over the FDI issue, even though the govt. has made it clear that it's implementation in each State is the State's own prerogative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    As you had written in your last post Soutik ...the time to resurrect Rahul , scion of the Nehru dynasty and India's prime minister-in-waiting....' parliment will surely be in limbo if limbo's like Rahul and italian Sonia run the Indian Gov.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    China must be loving this, no need for the west to play the climate change card to kill off India’s development

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The 51% FDI in Retail will make lakhs of small shopkeepers lose so much
    business, they will slowly shut shop,only to benefit rich Malls, super bazaaars owners, and this will not reduce Food inflation which
    is slowly destroying the Poor& lower middle class since 2yrs in India and BJP,Communist Parties,TMC and DMK are right about this .The
    Congress& UPA parties are colluding with rich corporates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    6. "India is so big, its govt cannot be efficient or effective."

    disagree. efficiency and effectiveness result from clear structure and scrupulous adherence to rules/laws. corruption otoh will render any government ineffective, no matter what size the country/population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    "But a small number of people also believe that, far from being undemocratic, disruptions actually foster democratic values and representation."

    I believe so to because 'disruptions' are sometimes the only way to get an issue on the agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Khushwant Singh: More I see of way our 2 houses of parliament conduct their 'business', the more I feel our parliamentary system of governance is on the verge of collapsing. Credibility is at stake. Maybe its time for a United States of India, which not only recognizes the cultural diversity, but has state govts that respond to state issues:

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Parliament of world's largest democracy remains in limbo.
    There are 31 bills to be considered, including key anti-corruption bill.
    This is obviously too unwieldy! India is too big. Parliament has sat for only 72% of its allotted 800 hours. Only 57 of 200 bills planned have been passed. Enough! India is so big, its govt cannot be efficient or effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    A political system WITHOUT actual leaders is bound to fail. Promoted leaders can not herd the flock of unruly sheep. These fake leaders have to use fundamentalist type "fatwa" (party whip/ruling) to impose/promote its authority. Almost none (barring BJP & communists to some extent) of Indian political parties follow any system to promote real leaders. Dynastic politics will fail in 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    It seems that Indian political system is collapsing. Hardly anyone trust it, even fellow politicians. Politicians are killing the golden goose which lays golden eggs (obviously for them, at least).
    Democracy, worldwide, is facing severe challenges to prove its merit in this era of higher connectivity, demand for transparency & "fairness". Is it time to search for alternative OR systemic reform?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Our politicians blame Anna Hazare for "trying to bypass" parliament when team Anna wants an effective Lokepal bill. These "democratically elected" politicians hardly can run the parliament, hardly capable to debate & decide on any issue. Majority of them are not educated & civilized enough to sit in the parliament in the 1st place, leave alone participating in a law making process for the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The decision on the FDI came as a surprise to everyone and it shouldn’t be like this, politicians should speak up well before a final decision has been made by the goverment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Before any bill is discussed in the parliament politicians mainly the ruling party politicians should talk about it in the media in what direction the government is heading to. This will allow opposition parties and the ruling parties to explain why they think it’s right or wrong.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.