If there were any doubts in your mind that, in politics, we have hit rock bottom, Tuesday’s parliamentary session should have erased them by now. What was supposed to be the close of the budgetary debates turned out to be a full fledged electoral campaign, no less.
But then again that is the problem with politics in this country. Instead of campaigning and standing for election at the appropriate time as they do elsewhere, here we keep running for election continously. As soon as a government steps in, the opposition starts a new campaign. The alliance/misalliance game complicates matters and literally skews our democracy.
But let’s first start with the opposition’s walkout, which – like hunger strikes – has become so commonplace that it has lost its value and some may say is a dereliction of duty. For heavens’ sake, the job of the opposition is to sit in parliament and tell us which of the measures proposed in the budget are bad and how to deal with them. Instead, they have been boycotting the debates for the last three years.
Now, while they were out, the prime minister had an excellent opportunity to start his own campaign. It is not only the opposition which keeps running for elections but the government as well. Navin Ramgoolam took three long hours and all sorts of diversions to engage in what was effectively a party political broadcast, going to the extent of asking again for a three-quarter majority. Gosh, did someone forget to tell us that polling day was tomorrow? Opposite, the benches were empty and there was therefore no one to stop him.
Then the opposition members reappeared as if by magic. It was not the minister of finance they were boycotting, just the government, they said. The budget was good in fact, wasn’t it? Because it was read by Xavier Duval – a potential future ally. All the good measures must have come from him. If there are a few bad measures, they must have been forced down his throat by the prime minister and the Labour lobbies. Seriously? And these are the guys we are paying to protect our interests? Please join me in a prayer!
Xavier Duval, on the other hand, does nothing to dispel the rumours of a possible causecauser between him and members of the opposition. While appearing to revel in the courtship and beaming with satisfaction, he continues to praise the prime minister for his trust, thus indirectly upping the antes. But wouldn’t you do the same in an arena where democracy has been replaced by political bed hopping? If anything, at least the opposition lets him off with some measures they may have wanted to criticise if they felt there was no hope of his joining them.
So, if you want to know what both the government and the opposition think about the budgetary measures, here is a very concise summary: the government thinks you should give them another mandate, preferably with a threequarter majority this time and the opposition thinks that Xavier Duval is the greatest thing since sliced bread. For what they thought about him yesterday, you have to go over your notes. They also think Pravind Jugnauth is important enough in the hierarchy to speak just before the prime minister – again, go over your notes for what they thought yesterday. The budget? Oh, please give them a break!
Anybody still serious about electoral reform? Do us a favour: just ban pre-election alliances and all the nonsense will stop. Please! It is a real cancer in our democracy.