Hurling abuses, throwing chairs and desks and breaking microphones is nothing new in our legislative houses. The august houses meant for holding serious debates on vital issues of national importance are more often than not reduced to frivolous speeches.
The recent session of Punjab assembly sprang many a surprise besides adding a few bizarre first to its list.
There is a solemn hour the house observes on the first day of its every session to pay tributes to the deceased, former or sitting members besides eminent non-members. But the sanctity of the practice began to erode when names of the family members started finding place in the list of obituaries.
Citing one such instance, in 1993, late Beant Singh was speaking on the obituaries as leader of the house, while a BSP member intervened saying the son of a BSP MLA had died the day before and his name should be included in references. Beant Singh agreed to the suggestion. When research branch of the assembly was finalising the proceedings, they found that MLA's wife had delivered a dead child. Since the child had not been named, it was not included in the list.
Now, Punjab assembly has gone a step further by showing sensitivity to animals by paying tributes to the butchered cows at Joga in Mansa as part of obituaries.
While participating in a discussion on a resolution tabled in the house to discuss the menace of stray dogs in the state, MLA Ajit Inder Singh Mofar suggested that the government send all stray dogs to Nagaland and Mizoram, and in case the menace still persisted, then they be sent to China as the exports might boost the sagging economy of the state. Needless to say the electronic media had a field day airing this particular piece of debate.
In a first of sorts in the history of state assembly, a member of the house sang on the floor of house on the insistence of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, seconded by speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. First, the chief minister should not have asked the member to sing in the house, irrespective of his standing. Second, the speaker should not have allowed it over and above the listed business for the day.
The fact remains that the chief minister lured Mohammad Sadique into singing a song in case he wanted to have a college in his constituency. Sadique reluctantly obliged Badal at the risk of embarrassing his party members. Sadique is a first-timer and may not be aware of the ways of the house, but the chief minister and the speaker can be squarely blamed for exploiting his innocence. One wonders had Sadique been a gymnast, Badal might even have asked him to show his acrobatic skills in the house as in the chief minister's view, anything is possible in Zero Hour.
Does this kind of frolic on the floor of the house enhance the prestige of our legislatures? Should polity not seriously ponder the issue? There are many film stars in Parliament. What if, taking a cue from this, ministers in Parliament ask Hema Malini, Jayaprada or Rekha to perform a dance number on the floor of the house for wanting a development project for their people? Or had the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked MP Dara Singh to show his wrestling skills in the house?
Jokes apart, let the honourable members bring some degree of prudence to the august houses of legislature, not only by improving the quality of debates, but by their mature and dignified behaviour in and outside the house. Let these citadels of parliamentary democracy enjoy their eminent position and not become the theatre of the absurd.
The writer is a former deputy speaker, Punjab. The views expressed are personal.