India’s politicians have shouted each other down and forced parliament to close early almost every single day of the month-long Monsoon session. The Associated Press describes the chaos:
India’s Parliament adjourned a raucous, one-month session Friday [September 7] that had more shouting matches than official business. . . .Only four out of 30 slated bills passed. Another 15 bills were to be introduced for discussion but lawmakers managed to squeeze in only six. . . .The Lok Sabha or lower house of Parliament worked for only 25 hours this session and the upper house for just over 26 hours, the group’s data showed.Over the last two weeks, both houses of Parliament have done little business as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party stalled proceedings demanding the prime minister’s resignation.
The main cause of this mess is the Coalgate scandal, according to the WSJ:
At the heart of the issue that has ground governance in New Delhi to a halt is an allegation by a federal auditor that the government lost billions of dollars between 2008 and 2011 by allocating coal-block mining licenses to private companies rather than holding a competitive auction.In a report sent last Friday to Parliament, India’s Federal Auditor claimed the government had lost as much as 1.85 trillion rupees ($33 billion) by allocating the licenses without a transparent auction.
This scandal is likely to have the effect of weakening both of the major national parties and promoting the trend toward regional party coalitions. In the end, that’s likely to make the Indian government even more corrupt than it is now, as coalition agreements tend to be dominated by politicians looking for funds for their supporters. The trend will also make it harder for Indian governments to take difficult policy steps and make important reforms.This trend is important to watch. India is a country of almost unlimited promise, but it is not at all clear that India’s current and future governments will be strong enough and determined enough to take advantage of the opportunities they face.