A scandal roiling India’s multi-billion dollar coal industry has made its way into the country’s parliament. A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General accuses the government of giving out coal mining contracts to certain organizations using questionable accounting practices. By the report, India has lost out on $34 billion it should have collected from the contracts.
While $34 billion is no insignificant sum, allegations of government corruption of this kind are nothing new in India. Plus many question the amount arrived at in the report, believing it to be significantly inflated. Nevertheless, India’s opposition party has taking advantage of the controversy to bring parliament to a standstill.
India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trumping up the scandal as the latest example of the Congress-led government’s mismanagement, and has called for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation. While experts feel this is unlikely to occur, BJP MPs have refused to conduct government business. As a result India is now on pace to set a record for fewest number of working days for a parliamentary session.
BJP could also force early elections by directing its parliamentary reps to resign. But such a move would need support from other parties as well, which is not assured.
Despite any potential corruption that may have taken place, according to the Economist “BJP’s boycotts of parliament still look irresponsible.”
Is BJP using the democratic process solely for its own political advantage, or are they rightfully drawing attention to gross government misconduct? The U.S. Congress often faces similar questions over use of the filibuster; it is a slippery slope. Democracy gives countries the right to question and hold their governments accountable, but misuse of this right could cause more problems than the right solves in the first place.