An epidemic of unruly behaviour is sweeping across legislatures. First it was the UP lawmakers who threw mikes and paper balls at the governor. Then the Orissa MLAs made a big ruckus in the assembly. And now the Andhra Pradesh netas have been breaking window panes and creating such a commotion they had to be physically carried out of the House by the marshals.
How can our leaders behave in such a disgraceful manner? “It was really shameful,” said a man who was in the visitors’ gallery in the UP assembly at the time of the rumpus. “They’ve been doing this for so many years, one would have imagined their aim would have improved. Yet every one of their paper balls missed the governor.”
“I was betting big money they would hit the governor and I was terribly disappointed,” said another aggrieved visitor.
A bystander proposed a competition among legislators of various states to improve their throwing skills. “We could even have a league like the IPL,” he said eagerly. A socialite pointed out incidents like these paint India in a very unfavourable light. “The world has moved on to throwing shoes,” she said, “and we’re still throwing benches and mikes. That is such a ‘90s thing.”
Critics have alleged the unruly scenes sully the image of the legislature. But many politicians beg to differ. An MLA from UP with 50 criminal cases against him protested he had the deepest respect for the hallowed institution, claiming that he had “never murdered anyone in the assembly, nor kidnapped anybody within the House”. An eminent sociologist agreed that given the shenanigans of many MLAs outside the House, their conduct within its precincts has been remarkably mild.
Ruling party members have been quick to condemn the incidents. “The problem with the Opposition is that they are very destructive,” said a BSP worker. “We, on the other hand, are creative,” he continued, “clearly seen in our passion for putting up statues of Mayawati all across the state.” “We also spend a lot of time painting blue elephants,” he said, referring to their party symbol.
But a Samajwadi Party MLA said he was all for more protests. “Walter Scott once said ‘One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum’,” he said. Ruling party circles pooh-pooh that claim. “Was his full name Walter Scott Yadav?” asked the BSP worker suspiciously.
Psychiatrists agree that one reason for legislators behaving like unruly schoolboys is boredom. “These days bills get passed so quickly there are soon no bills left to pass,” said a political psychologist, “and that’s when they start getting restless.”
Some of the MLAs carried out of the Andhra assembly confessed they felt snug and secure in the arms of the marshals. “I felt I was back in my mother’s arms,” sobbed one of them. The psychiatrist said it was a symptom of a deep-seated neurosis.
The big question, in Lenin’s famous words, is: What is to be done? How do we stop this deplorable behaviour? Some psychologists want to add soothing background music in legislatures. Others say that having relaxing sauna baths, massage parlours and jacuzzis in the assembly premises might do the trick. Vastu and feng shui consultants suggest strategically placing mirrors, laughing Buddhas and bamboo shoots within the building to absorb negative energies.
Numerologists say spelling Parliament as ‘Pparliament’ is bound to work. Some seem to think sending pink chaddis to legislators might solve the problem. Others favour the practical solution of buying suits of armour for speakers and governors, although one governor tried out the suit said it would be awfully hot.
Sources say the government has already set up a committee with a senior Lok Sabha member as chairman to consider all these options. Reports indicate, however, that committee members are busy stocking up on paper balls to throw at the chairman.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint