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Parliament turning 'dysfunctional', institutions tamed: Chidambaram

"Institutions have been tamed or emasculated or captured. Democracy is gasping for breath. We may have the shell of democracy, but inside, the shell has been hollowed out," says Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram. 

Parliament turning 'dysfunctional', institutions tamed: Chidambaram
New Delhi, First Published Aug 7, 2022, 1:55 PM IST

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram believes that Parliament has become "dysfunctional". He further claims that Indian democracy is "gasping for breath" as all institutions have been tamed or captured.

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In an interview with news agency PTI, Chidambaram asserted that it was increasingly and abundantly clear that the powers of investigation and the laws were directed only at members of the Opposition. 

"Institutions have been tamed or emasculated or captured. Democracy is gasping for breath. We may have the shell of democracy, but inside, the shell has been hollowed out. This applies to almost all institutions, which is what Rahul Gandhi alluded to in his reply (at the press conference Friday)," he said.

Chidambaram rejected Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks linking the Congress' demonstration against price rise on Friday to the Ram temple foundation day. He said that when the date for the protest was fixed, the anniversary of the 'Shilanyas' was "far from our mind". Stating that logic can always be twisted to blame someone, the Congress leader said that the date of the protest was fixed, keeping in mind that all MPs would be in Delhi on Friday to vote for the vice presidential election on Saturday

To recall, Shah had linked Congress leaders' protest in black clothes to the party's "appeasement" politics and opposed the Ram temple foundation stone laying by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5, 2020.

Chidambaram also rejected BJP leaders' charge that the Congress' protest on August 5 was an attempt to save the party's top leadership that is facing questioning by the ED in the National Herald case. "We had announced and made it clear that the protests on August 5 were exclusively on inflation, unemployment and Agnipath. If people pretend to be deaf and blind to the announcement, what can we do?" he said.

Venkaiah Naidu 'failed to protect' LOP

Chidambaram termed Kharge's summoning by the ED during the working hours of Parliament last Thursday as a "sad day" for Rajya Sabha. He claimed that Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu "failed to protect" the Leader of the Opposition from being summoned when the House was in session. 

"Contrast the support extended by the US government to Ms Nancy Pelosi, Speaker US House of Representatives, on her visit to Taiwan. The Executive branch respected the authority and autonomy of the Legislative branch. The US government sent its aircraft carrier to the seas off Taiwan and also kept air support ready," he pointed out, adding, "In our country, the Executive branch summoned the Leader of the Opposition when Rajya Sabha was in session and one of the two heads of the Legislative branch pleaded helplessness."  

Nirmala Sitharaman's comparisons were "odious"

Chidambaram also lashed out at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her reply to the debate on price rise in Parliament in which she had said that India's macroeconomic fundamentals are "perfect" and that the country does not face any risk of either stagflation or recession.

"Our concerns were rising prices and rampant unemployment. The twin factors have placed an unbearable burden on the poor and the middle class. The finance minister was obliged to spell out the steps that the government intended to take to moderate prices and to create jobs. The FM did not," he said.

Chidambaram also criticised Sitharaman's comparisons with other countries, saying they were "odious". 

"The burden of inflation is always relative to income and savings. If a country like the US has high inflation, please remember that Americans also have a high per capita income and high savings. In a country like India with a low per capita income (less than USD 2,000) and low savings, high inflation places an intolerable burden on the people," he said.

Chidambaram said he was surprised that Sitharaman did not notice the vital difference between a country like the US and India. "To give a banal example, if an Indian patient has 101 degrees fever, what is the satisfaction in saying that the American patient has 103 degrees fever? Both are very sick," he said.

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