They have the mandate to uphold democratic values. But the unbridled belligerence of some parliamentarians washed away most of the monsoon session.
Three days after Parliament was adjourned sine die, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil subtly drew the attention of MPs to the negative impact rowdy sessions can have on public perception. Speaking at the Central Hall of Parliament after giving away "outstanding parliamentarian" awards on Thursday, she said, "With advances in broadcast technology, people are viewing 'live' proceedings of Parliament. On the basis of what people see, they form an opinion about its functioning and contribution to policy formulation. Let us keep away from political recriminations and work together towards building a strong nation."
The awards went to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Panchayati Raj and Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. Pawar's citation said his practical wisdom and down-to-earth appeal set him apart from his contemporaries; Chidambaram was credited for his debating skills and knowledge of the operational dynamics of the parliamentary system.
Sushma got the thumbs-up from the Indian Parliamentary Group for "ceaselessly striving to uphold the dignity and decorum of Parliament" while Aiyar's "disarming wit, quick repartees and persuasive logic, which make his interventions in the House an enjoyable experience", fetched him full marks. Pawar, Swaraj, Chidambaram and Aiyar were conferred the awards for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively.
Other speakers at the awards ceremony agreed with Patil. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked MPs to strive for very high standards of debate and discussion. "It is in this hallowed fountainhead of democracy that the hopes of our people find their highest expression. We owe it to those who have sent us here to do our very best," he said.
Condemning the "disruptionist" attitude, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said: "If we are to retain the trust of our people, we cannot allow such debilitating trends to continue."