Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said he was of the opinion that Parliament has become dysfunctional and alleged that democracy is “gasping for breath” in India, reported PTI.

“Institutions have been tamed or emasculated or captured,” Chidambaram said. “...We may have the shell of democracy, but inside, the shell has been hollowed out.”

The monsoon session of Parliament has witnessed low productivity ever since it started on July 18. According to a report published on July 31, The productivity of the Upper House fell to 16.49% in the second week from 26.90% in the first week.

The proceedings have been adjourned frequently amid the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on inflation and tax increases on several goods and services.

On August 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told both Houses of the Parliament that the government has managed to keep inflation at 7% or below that level and there was no question of India slipping into stagflation or recession. Despite that, the Reserve Bank of India on August 5 said that inflation is expected to remain high.

On Sunday, Chidambaram claimed that the disorderly situation in Parliament has resulted from the treasury benches having “no interest in dialogue, discussion and debate”.

He added, “Let me ask, what calamity would have befallen if the government had agreed to a debate under Rule 267 on price rise on the first day?” The debate would have been concluded in one day. Instead, we wasted two weeks.”

He also said that Sitharaman was obliged to tell the House about the steps taken by the government to moderate prices and create job opportunities in the country, but did not do so.

“Our concerns were rising prices and rampant unemployment,” the Congress leader said. “The twin factors have placed an unbearable burden on the poor and the middle class.”

Chidambaram also said Sitharaman’s comparisons of the Indian economy with other countries were odious.

“The burden of inflation is always relative to income and savings,” he said. “ If a country like the US has high inflation, please remember that Americans also have a high per capita income and high savings.”

On National Herald case

In his interview with PTI, Chidambaram alleged that Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu failed to protect Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge from being summoned by the Enforcement Directorate at a time when the House was in session.

Kharge was called for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the National Herald case on August 4. He was questioned for over eight hours.

“Contrast the support extended by the United States government to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of House of Representatives, on her visit to Taiwan,” Chidambaram said. “The Executive branch respected the authority and autonomy of the Legislative branch.”

He added, “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.”

Chidambaram also asserted that leaders summoned in the National Herald case are strong enough to defend themselves and they also have the full support of the party.

On August 5, Naidu, however, said that members of Parliament cannot be exempted from being arrested in criminal cases when a session of the House is underway.