The framers of the constitutions may not have imagined how creative the political class would turn. A recent example of this, in the long litany, is that of how the provision for cut-motions while discussing and passing the demand for grants in a budget has been turned into a means to political survival and enrichment by leaders of parties.
It makes sense to point a certain fact in this context before taking the discussion forward. The concept of a cut-motion is derived out of Article 113(2) of the Constitution. In the constitutional scheme, all proposals by the Executive to draw money from the consolidated funds of India will have to be approved by the Lok Sabha; and the first stage in that scheme is that the Finance Minister, after presenting the budget, will also seek approval of the Lok Sabha for spending money in the manner in which the proposals have been made.
Article 113 of the Constitution charts out the scheme for approval and enables every MP, whether belonging to the ruling, opposition or any section in the Lok Sabha, to move a motion proposing a cut, in all cases a symbolic one rupee, to the demand for grant made by the Finance Minister for a particular ministry. The convention is that the adoption of a cut-motion by the Lok Sabha will mean that the Government does not have the authority to spend money the way it wanted and it amounts to the defeat of the money bill and consequently an affirmation by the Lok Sabha that the Government does not have the support of a majority in the House.
In that way, a cut-motion is as good as a no-confidence motion and hence voting is governed by the same procedures as that governs voting on a no-confidence motion. It is thus clear that parties are free to issue whips to its members insofar as voting on cut motions are concerned and in the event a MP defies such a whip he/she shall be liable for disqualification from the membership of the House under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule.
Well. I did not see any of the parties issuing a whip of any kind when the Finance Bill was slated for being placed for approval in the Lok Sabha on April 27, 2010. I may be wrong. But then, I did not see any such thing having been reported in the media. Hence, let me conclude that neither the Left parties (who also organised a bandh, in their strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala, that day) nor the BJP were really serious of seeing to the fall of the Government. The fact is that the leaders across the political spectrum are clear that price rise, as an issue, leading to a political tumult are things of the past.
This did happen in the past. Gujarat in 1973-74 witnessed a protest, unprecedented in scale and form against rising process and the cause for that as being identified as corruption. The student movement that forced Indira Gandhi to get her Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel out of the office and order fresh elections began with a protest against rise in mess charges in an engineering college in Ahmedabad. The students and the middle classes across Gujarat launched a massive struggle against the regime then and made history.
The Gujarat movement, in fact, seemed to set a new course in the political culture of our nation and Lalu Prasad Yadav was a product of that culture so to say. I see a connection in that and the tragic reality now that Lalu Prasad Yadav and such others who emerged in that context are no longer serious about process of essential commodities and using the procedure laid out for protests in such contexts in Parliament. We did see a unity between Lalu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in this regard when the cut motions were voted in the Lok Sabha on April 27, 2010.
I cannot desist from drawing the critical link between the rising process and the corruption that is seething in our body politic: That the political establishment cutting across parties and platforms is so concerned about its own preservation and the enrichment of its leaders at various levels that our neighbourhood vegetable vendor is forced to ``donate’’ periodically to their funds and also pay up the police and others every day that they will have to make good all that from you, me and those like us. The grain trader too is in no different position. And it is indeed inevitable that prices rise and when that happens, the Government machinery that is supposed to check the prices are led to inaction because they have all benefited out of the traders and the others and hence disabled from taking action.
And it is so obvious that there is no relief to the man who pays more to get less and less of grains and vegetables. Lalu and Mulayam do not fall in this category. Nor does any one of the MPs. They all are protected sufficiently well by the system. And so is Shibhu Soren, whose Government is in trouble because his party MPs too behaved in a manner suggesting that the rising prices are not an issue before them. Well. There is a stage in our political life when corruption is ruling the roost. And it is easy for anyone controlling the system to use such institutions as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to make such leaders as Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh, Shibhu Soren and Mayawati behave in a manner to save the Government!
Now, there is no way all these could be taken up for scrutiny and made an issue because Article 105 of the Constitution will be invoked by our Honourable MPs: They are privileged men and women!