In a conversation with Mitali Mukherjee, former minister of finance and external affairs, and the chairperson of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Yashwant Sinha said it was extremely sad to witness the opposition being roughshod in the recent parliament session. Sinha said parliament was at the heart of democracy and if you railroad reforms in this way, they will not succeed as states will fight the decisions taken legally and otherwise.
With no opposition present, the Rajya Sabha passed seven Bills in less than four hours on Wednesday. They included the FCRA Bill, J&K official languages Bill and the three key labour codes. In all 25 Bills were passed and six bills were introduced. The monsoon session has now been adjourned sine die, amid concerns of the spread of coronavirus among lawmakers.
The former finance minister said there was a stark difference between the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime and the current one; while the previous NDA government had also introduced many controversial bills (de-licencing of the sugar industry (1998) and dairy industry (2002), and allowing Bt cotton in 2002 (India’s only GM crop so far), despite opposition from NGOs and ideologues), the method of approach was always to build consensus and gather all points of view, via a standing committee or otherwise.
Sinha said, “We are witnessing majoritarianism where parliament is the last bastion to have fallen. Democracy is about consensus, not majority.”
He also criticised the government citing lack of data for many important issues (on migrant worker deaths, compensation for migrant workers, health worker deaths due to COVID, political prisoners in jails, number of plasma banks) and said “This is the first government that doesn’t collect data but allows ‘dressing’ it up or holding it back.”
Sinha also said the recent face-offs between states and the Centre on various issues including GST compensation was a sign that federalism is under serious threat.
On the impending elections in Bihar, where Sinha is contesting, he said that Bihar understands regime change. It will not be a bloody revolution but the people of Bihar will show their anger in the ballot.
Alluding to the recently passed farm Bills that have seen widespread protest across India, the former finance minister said, “The farmers of Bihar are watching. The farm Bills will have an impact even on Bihar (where the APMC was dismantled in 2006). They feel the pain of other farmers and they will vote accordingly.”