‘Need dialogue between govt, Opposition to run Parliament smoothly’

New Delhi, Aug 3 (Representative) As the Vice Presidential polls draw close amid a stormy Monsoon Session of Parliament, Opposition’s candidate, veteran politician Margaret Alva, stressed on the need for dialogue between government and opposition to ensure that the voice of the people can be raised in Parliament. In an interview to UNI, Alva expressed her disappointment with the state of affairs in the Parliament, and said the voice of the Opposition parties and critics of the government was being silenced in Parliament, as well as outside. Even as the numbers remained stacked in favour of government’s candidate Jagdeep Dhankar, Alva emphasized on the importance of fighting the election, and appealed to all MPs to follow their conscience and vote for the person they think will uphold the dignity of the House. Asked about the Trinamool Congress’ announcement to abstain from the voting, she said Opposition leaders were set to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when she comes to Delhi. Alva also said there is pressure on Opposition parties.

“There is a lot of pressure, particularly on Opposition parties which are supporting… (Sanjay) Raut has been picked up from the Shiv Sena, Prafful Patel of NCP has been in ED heat.. JMM is under threat of their government surviving… look at the raids in Bengal,” she said. Alva, 80, who has been a member of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha multiple times, has served as a union minister in past, and also a former governor, spoke about a recent visit to the Central Hall of Parliament with great fondness. “I went to the central hall of Parliament the other day, it was such a pleasure. From the chap who used to serve me tea, to some of the watch and ward staff, they said they were happy to see me. I felt so at home”. Alva reminisced about the old times, and said, “In Indira ji’s time, Vajpayee ji’s time, Chandrasekhar ji’s time… There was heated debate in the House, we differed, the government was hauled up for action and lack of action… But the Opposition spoke, and there was debate. There were serious differences, but what is Parliament meant for… Its debate, discussion, ultimately a consensus emerges. it is not just about adjourning, suspending, preventing discussion”. “You have seen the record…

The question that concerned citizens are asking is that what is the relevance of Parliament is there is no debate, no give and take. If people’s issues cannot be raised,” she said. The former governor spoke about building bridges between parties to ensure smooth functioning of the House, and said if she is elected as the Vice President, who is also the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, she would ensure there is dialogue between parties and a middle path is found. “I would try to build bridges so that everybody’s voice is heard,” she said. “It is the duty of the government to ensure that the House runs. What does it cost you to call everyone, and come to an understanding? Why is there so much confusion, placards, people sitting in protest, slogans… Opposition feels frustrated when their voice is not heard,” she said. Asked about the numbers being stacked against her in the election, she repeated her appeal to all MPs to vote based on their conscience. “When there is an election, win or lose, you have to fight. We know we don’t have the numbers, but I am appealing to Members across party lines, remember there can be no whip in the President and Vice President election. Constitution makers wanted this to be an election where MPs decided for themselves who they want to vote for. It is a secret ballot…” she said. “Across party lines, I have appealed to everybody and said think about the future of Parliament, about restoring dignity, and a mature debating atmosphere.

I have seen Vajpayee, so many outstanding leaders in government and Opposition. Many leaders in the government criticized their own government’s policy, and the Opposition opposed, and when necessary praising the government. Vajpayee called Indira Gandhi Durga…” she said. Talking about her opponent Jagdeep Dhankar, the former governor of West Bengal, she said, “I have appealed to MPs to cast a conscience vote and elect who they think is the best. If they think the former governor of Bengal, whose track record is known, is going to be able to restore order and normal functioning in Rajya Sabha?” “Do you want to risk the same atmosphere in Parliament or would you want someone.. You need someone with expertise in handling the House, a certain dignified approach from the Chair, impartial, yet firm, who can work out compromises between opposing opinions and priorities. There could be a middle way, we have done it before.” The 2022 elections for the Vice-President of India will be held on August 6.