The Government appears eager to keep some enigma around the five-day special session of Parliament, set to begin from September 18. Opposition parties had a point when they complained that the Government did not consult them before calling the special session. As in the parliamentary bulletin issued on September 13, only the agenda for the opening day is known. The Government has listed the Bill that seeks to change the appointment process of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, which the Opposition is preparing to corner the Government on as it gives the ruling party excessive control over the appointment process. The Government also proposes holding a debate on ‘Parliamentary Journey of 75-years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings’, an intriguing topic. The listed debate could well be the farewell address to the present Parliament (circular) building which was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens, and inaugurated in January 1927 by Viceroy Lord Irwin as the seat of the Imperial Legislative Council. The new building, which is triangular-shaped, has been waiting to receive parliamentarians since May 28 when it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was not used during the monsoon session held between July 20 and August 11. No official explanation has been forthcoming on why the session was not held there.
Viceroy Irwin had presented the circular building as an emblem of “permanence”. The building will be retiring at 96 years, four years short of a century. For India’s growing population, its Parliament needs to be bigger and, consequently, the building too. But democracy is not about buildings. Parliament, after all, is a place for the Opposition to have its say though the Government might have its way. The Bharatiya Janata Party has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and while it may not have similar numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha, it remains the single largest party; thanks to allies and sympathetic parties, no government Bill has been stalled here for want of a majority. Still, the Government evades parliamentary scrutiny and gives no priority to taking the Opposition into confidence. The Government insists that it is going by the book. A meeting of floor leaders of all parties is being convened on Sunday, just 31 hours before the session begins. There is no dialogue between the Opposition and the Government to enable the smooth functioning of the Parliament. Changes to Article 370 were before Parliament on August 5, 2019, without any notice or consultation. If the Opposition parties have needlessly speculated about the agenda and aired their concerns about the special session, the Government is partly responsible.