Call it the politics of language. These days, a couple of hours before Parliament commences, several members from either House are seen sharpening their Hindi in a quiet corner of the library building.
The class — consisting mainly of MPs from the southern and eastern states — assembles under the watchful eyes of noted linguist and former Benares Hindu University professor Vishwanath Mishra.
The professor has a formidable reputation as a teacher: among his old and current disciples are President APJ Abdul Kalam, his predecessor KR Narayanan, former Lok Sabha Speaker GMC Balayogi, and MPs CK Chandrappan and Prabodh Panda (CPI), Qadur Mohiuddin (DMK), Sharad Joshi (Shetkari Sangathana), Sujan Chakraborty and Abdullah Kutty (CPM), Parminder Kaur (Akali Dal), Ananth Kumar (BJP), and K Yerrannaidu (Telugu Desam Party).
But why the desire to learn Hindi? It seems the MPs felt the lack of knowledge of the language hampered their work in Parliament.
P Madhu from Andhra Pradesh said he found it difficult to understand the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, who invariably spoke in Hindi. Many of his constituents too spoke Hindi or Urdu, he added.
For others like K Malaichamy (AIADMK), it is just a question of following the leader: Jayalalithaa recently spoke in Hindi at an election roadshow in UP.
Malaichamy also felt the political discourse in the South was no longer as anti-Hindi as in the past; a view Kerala’s Sebastian Paul agreed with.