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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Other Columns

MLAs’ arms longer than the law?
Ayaz Memon, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, March 25, 2013
First Published: 03:10 IST(25/3/2013)
Last Updated: 03:17 IST(25/3/2013)

Political reporters in new organisations I have worked with over the years have always displayed some kind of contempt for the Vidhan Sabha which I could never quite understand. After the shenanigans of the last week, I do.

These reporters had no compunctions with the building itself, of course, rather the denizens who are found there. “They think the people and the state owes them everything and they owe nothing in return,’’ one had said to me some years back. “Many of them have no compunction behaving like hoodlums,’’ said another.

I had thought these were perhaps overreactions because the reporters had failed to get them interested in some story, but this was obviously not the case. Legislators — apparently no matter where they come from — believe that they are “privileged” to get away with anything at all.

In Mumbai (and Maharashtra by extension), we tend to think that unseemly behaviour from the political class happens only in other states. But could there be anything worse than what we have seen in the Vidhan Sabha involving MLAs Kshitij Thakur and Ram Kadam and their beating up of assistant police inspector (traffic) Sachin Suryavanshi?

Thakur and Kadam are now in custody but have refused to name the others involved in physically assaulting Suryavanshi. Three other MLAs have been suspended as well. But that may not be punishment enough.

Suryavanshi’s “crime” was that he stopped Thakur for speeding along the Bandra-Worli sea link. This happens to many drivers who get tempted by one of the few open roads in this congested city, helped a little by the sea-breeze perhaps! Suryavanshi also objected to the tinted glass on the car’s windows. In turn, Thakur objected to Suryavanshi’s tone.

One thing led to another, an unseemly fracas followed. But things took a turn for the worse when Thakur moved a privilege motion against Suryavanshi and then got enraged when he saw the cop in the Vidhan Sabha.

So he and some like-minded MLAs, it seems, decided to teach this over-reaching police officer a lesson and thrashed him in public view, uncaring for their own reputations or the decorum of the house.

It’s not that the Vidhan Sabha building (inaugurated in 1981 by Indira Gandhi) has never seen unpredictable behaviour earlier:  the late Pramod Navalkar of the Shiv Sena once brandished a firearm inside to demonstrate lax security. But what could be lower than 15 MLAs thrashing a cop in its corridors?

It is tempting to tag this to the growing incivility that we see around us. Hooliganism is not something that any citizenry expects from its elected representatives. But such expectations, alas, are meaningless.

There is no doubt that standards have fallen abysmally. Sometimes you wonder the city we live in is the same one in which Gandhi gave the Quit India call and Dr BR Ambedkar wrote the Constitution.


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