I can only hope that some poor deluded nation does not decide to send a study team, the sort we regularly send out from here, to come and observe Indian democracy at close quarters in Parliament. Because the hapless team will go back stunned at how our Parliament works at times, especially these times. I am no novice to the antics of our parliamentarians.
I have seen them rush to the well of the House, throw microphones, snatch papers and shout each other down. But, the recent display of utter vulgarity was despicable in the extreme. For an MP came to the House with a can of pepper spray which in his haste to make a point, he managed to spray onto himself. Another brandished what was thought to be a knife but turned out to be a piece of a microphone which he had broken. Needless to say they scared the daylights out of everyone. And all this over the Telangana issue which is sensitive but did not warrant such a display of crass and violent behaviour.
But then this is perhaps just the lowest point in a long line of transgressions by our political worthies who seem to think that Parliament is the right forum for their unseemly antics. Do they think that anyone is impressed to see a bunch of grown men, women usually steer clear of all this, pulling out bits of metal and pepper spray cans to make a point? Do they think they are in some C-grade Bollywood movie? If you or I went to office and pulled out a can of mace to score a point, chances are that we will be cooling our heels in the unemployment queue. But our politicos have no such fear, they can chug along merrily until the next election.
I really pity the next government if they have to deal with a similar bunch of people in Parliament. These MPs seem to forget all about their job profile once they have got their hot little hands on the perks and privileges of office. They seem to think that these are richly deserved entitlements and they are then free to behave as irresponsibly as they please. Honestly, if any of our teenaged children behaved half as badly, we’d ground them for half a year and cut off their allowance for a whole year. But our lads know no restraint for they are accountable to no one. In Parliament, the poor Speaker is in serious danger of losing his or her vocal chords trying to keep this unruly bunch of delinquents posing as MPs under control. This is such a pity because our Parliament has some outstanding members whose interventions and speeches are riveting. Arun Jaitley, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal and LK Advani are among the few who come to mind. But what sticks in people’s minds are the few really rotten apples.
Okay, I am not being unrealistic and expecting everyone who comes to Parliament to rise to Nehruvian heights of oratory. But all I ask is that they engage in the business they were put there to do at our expense. Discuss legislation, take up serious issues of the day, by all means disagree but for god’s sake, keep it civil. Now we may titter under our breath about the sun setting on the British Empire. But we really can take a lesson from the way the British Parliament is conducted. Now the MPs there may have a knife in each other’s back. But I am yet to see one of them actually bring along a weapon to the House. They may loathe each other, but they maintain some decorum and decency. Not too much to ask of our lads who enjoy far more privileges than your average British MP.
Our legislatures have long been the fountainhead of bad behaviour. We have seen women MLAs manhandled, flower pots being thrown at each other, clothes being ripped off and of course, the routine exchange of blows. And you wonder why people are incensed with all this and feel that parliamentary democracy has little to offer them. I know one should not care what other countries think of us, but I really cringe at what impression our MPs and MLAs make among even our neighbours. I can quite see even Pakistan, not the epitome of democracy, laughing up its sleeve at the display of democratic ‘freedom’ in our country.
It makes me heartsick to think that despite all the public anger, nothing seems to get better. That full sessions of Parliament have been wasted on these disgusting shows of belligerence and drama with no benefit whatsoever to any of us. And most of all, I feel desperately sorry that the really poor who depend for their welfare schemes on those who get sent to Parliament much more than you or I are being shortchanged with false promises that their interests will be looked after.
I think that the time has come to ensure that like the rest of us, these elected representatives are made to pay the price for not doing their jobs, for brawling on official premises. They should be stripped of their privileges one by one for each transgression. Money talks and I think many of them will fall in line lickety split. But how annoying that they have to be punished like errant schoolboys to just do their job. Today, it is pepper spray and a bit of sharp metal. I wonder what next. Heavy artillery? Don’t laugh, you can rely on our worthies to bring the House down, literally.