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Almost zero hour

chandigarh Updated: Nov 22, 2012 11:52 IST
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It was my earnest desire to watch the Parliament proceedings closely. When a friend from the national capital assured me he could arrange a pass for the monsoon session, I was thrilled.

On August 15, I reached the central secretariat by Metro, and walked from there to the visitors' gate. The security was high profile and overwhelming. By the time I took my seat in Parliament, I had been frisked six to seven times at different levels.

I was in awe of the majestic edifice. Five people, including a security guard, sat on each bench in the visitors' gallery. We had instructions to sit straight and still. No crossing the legs, no gestures to the MPs, and no discussions at all. It was hard to control the excitement, but the discipline was strict and the guards punished every breach with harsh words.

My eyes ran back and forth from the ruling-party benches to the opposition section, as I tried to recall the MPs by their names. I spotted almost all of the parliamentarians from my state. At 11am, the speaker entered and the members stood up in respect. It was like the school days, when the teacher came into the class.

After minutes of proceedings, a turbulent mass of members came charging into the well, gesticulating and raising slogans against the government. "Kaala dhan wapis lao (bring back the black money stashed abroad)," rang the chorus. A pandemonium broke out as others, unclear from which side, joined them. I now heard with my own ears what I had only read, so far, in newspapers.

"Aap sab apni jagah par baithye (please, take your seats)," like a teacher, the speaker requested the members politely and calmly, "Aap sab chup baithiye (please, be quiet)". She made repeated attempts to restore peace but the ruckus stopped only when she adjourned the house.

My visiting time was from 11am to noon, a session now curtailed to only 15 minutes. The visitors were cross; they felt cheated, for they had come prepared to watch the entire hour's proceedings.

We moved out sulking. The house of the people, the Lok Sabha, had disappointed me. It never seemed serious for a debate on the country's core issues. The day's arrangements had cost the country crores of rupees, but the members didn't care. They should have borrowed some discipline and decorum from the visitors' gallery.