New Delhi: India’s success as a parliamentary democracy was hailed by leaders across party lines at a special meeting of parliament Sunday to celebrate 60 years of its first sitting with some members also raising concern over the repeated disruption of proceedings in the two houses.
Leaders from all political parties recounted resilience of the country’s pluralistic democracy and pointed to the role played by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in resolving conflicts, easing tensions and enacting path-breaking legislations. Some members referred to the pending challenge of banishing poverty.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar set the tempo with her tribute to the people of the country for their unflinching faith in democracy despite the toil of their daily lives. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the first to speak in the Rajya Sabha.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee were among the first few speakers in the Lok Sabha while Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati were among the initial speakers in the Rajya Sabha.
The prime minister said India’s unflinching commitment to democracy was among the reasons for India’s growing global stature.
Justifying the two-house system, he said the Rajya Sabha was an institution whose deliberations had nurtured the strength of country’s federal polity and served as a bulwark against the transient impulses of the moment.
The prime minister, who has been a Rajya Sabha member for the past 21 years, said parliamentarians should reflect on the concern on the repeated disruptions of proceedings and “a regrettable unwillingness, on occasion, to engage in informed discussion”.
Meira Kumar congratulated people and said they deserved the real credit for success of democracy owing to their enthusiastic participation in elections.
“I bow to people of the country,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi emphasised that the independence of parliament must be protected at all costs.
“Our conduct must be according to the standards of founding fathers,” she said.
Advani said: “The biggest achievement has been that India has become a great and successful democracy…the reason for success of democracy is the respect for opposite ideology.”
Mukherjee described the Lok Sabha as a “great shock absorber” and said the house had been able to resolve many disputes and tensions.
Referring to frequent adjournments of the house, he said disturbance in proceedings impinge on the right of the silent majority.
“Let us try to avoid disruptions,” Mukherjee said.
Jaitley said the last 60 years had seen the collapse of many democracies but India not only survived but became the world’s largest democracy.
Mayawati said people’s welfare was central to decision-making in the first 30 years of parliament but political considerations were getting more play now.
Referring to the court decision to scrap promotions for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in jobs, she said that the matter had been raised in parliament but the government postponed a decision and said an all-party meeting will be called.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia said that the gap between the rich and the poor had increased over the years.
Emphasising on the time lost by parliament due to disruptions, CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury said 100 sittings per year should be made mandatory for MPs.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said millions of people in the country were still reeling under poverty.
“Democracy has not reached the poor. It has come till parliament,” Yadav said.
The two houses skipped lunch to accommodate members who wanted to speak.