“Rising intolerance” of another kind; privilege motion against BJD MP Jay Panda for his opinions

6 MPs of Rajya Sabha have filed a breach of privilege notice against Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Jay Panda of Biju Janta Dal (BJD) for his opinions. Of late, Mr. Panda has been arguing for constitutional and political reforms where powers, especially the veto powers of the upper house i.e. the Rajya Sabha are rationalized.

Jay Panda, known for his frank opinions inside and outside the Parliament, has specially argued for reduced powers of Rajya Sabha so that it is not able to block the popular mandate of the day.

His views have become relevant in wake of recent events where the current NDA government has been unable to push legislative reforms because it doesn’t enjoy majority in the upper house.

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Last month in Goa, Mr. Panda had argued for the same during the India Ideas Conclave. Having been a Rajya Sabha MP himself earlier, he conceded that the existence of the upper house was necessary for checks and balances, but added that “indirectly elected houses like the UK Lords don’t have a veto, and neither should the Rajya Sabha, unless it becomes directly elected like the US Senate.”

He elaborated upon those views last week in an article for Times of India where he cited examples of US, UK, and Italy to show that globally it was unparalleled the way Rajya Sabha in India could block the popular mandate.

Italy’s upper house had recently voted to drastically reduce its own powers, Panda pointed out, making a case of Indian upper house to rethink its powers to block reforms of a popular government.

In his article, he further argued that if the Rajya Sabha’s veto powers were to be untouched, its selection process should be changed allowing most of its members to be elected directly. “That would make its members’ agendas much less insular, and more broadly aligned with public interest,” he argued.

However, his views have upset some members of the Rajya Sabha, especially of those parties who have been crying about “growing intolerance”, who have decided to move a privilege motion against him.

On Twitter, Mr. Panda revealed names of some of the MPs who ‘could not tolerate his op-ed’. These included Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress, KC Tyagi of Janta Dal (United), D Raja of CPI, and Mohsina Kidwali of Congress – all members of parties who have been arguing that ‘intolerance’ is rising while claiming themselves to be tolerant.

Mr. Panda’s ideas are indeed worthy of deliberations as we have recently seen how the current Modi government, despite enjoying an absolutely majority in the Lok Sabha, has been unable to pass bills because it doesn’t enjoy the numeric strength in the Rajya Sabha.

Parties who have lost popular mandate continue to enjoy strength in the Rajya Sabha, and thus are able to block the popular mandate. Mr. Panda just called for a debate if the current state of affairs warranted a political reform. Sadly instead of debate, he has received a notice accusing him of Contempt of House.

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