Lok sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee can come across as a bit of a headmaster — and it’s not a perception held only by Opposition leaders who boycotted the Lower House on Tuesday against his ‘partiality’. Mr Chatterjee’s penchant for being patronising or truculent or forever reacting to unpleasantness with his favourite two words, “I’m upset,” has raised eyebrows, if not fingers, across the board. But for the NDA to not attend the Lok Sabha in protest of his alleged inability to be politically objective and conducting an ‘our mouths are gagged’ tamasha outside Parliament serves little purpose. To make matters go beyond the gong-banging display conducted a few weeks back by the Opposition protesting against the UPA policies, this time round, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has chipped in with his own dramatic showcase.
The former Prime Minister, normally preferring to stay out of Oppositional circus-shows, has written a letter to Mr Chatterjee stating that the NDA is “deeply disappointed” over the manner in which the House is being run. This letter was a reply to the Speaker’s letter to Mr Vajpayee asking him to get his party and the alliance which it heads to stop behaving churlishly and play the role of Opposition the way it is supposed to be played in a democracy: inside Parliament.
The latest cause for ‘deep disappointment’ is supposedly Mr Chatterjee’s rushing through proceedings even while leaders of Opposition were conducting ‘their business’ by rushing to the well of the House. First, disrupting proceedings in this manner, despite its many precedents, is not part of parliamentary norms. If the Speaker decided to ignore it — after being unable to stop it — this hardly amounts to ‘biased’ behaviour. The NDA has already trotted out facts and figures regarding how many times the Congress and its allies, then in Opposition, had stalled proceedings in Parliament. “If they were allowed to, why can’t we?” seems to be the Opposition’s answer to everything. As for Mr Chatterjee’s unbiased approach as a Speaker, his erstwhile colleagues in the Left don’t help matters by rushing to his defence. The real problem for the haranguing Opposition, which seems to have increasingly less time inside Parliament than outside, is that it barely occupies the Opposition space anymore. Thus, for them, any tamasha will do.