So things have come to such a pass. If before Tuesday the rumours and allegations of undecided MPs being bribed to make up their minds before the government’s trust vote were simply that — rumours and allegations — on the much-awaited day of the trust vote, the nation was horrified to behold its ghastly physical manifestation. Whatever be the veracity of the accusation made by the three BJP MPs, what is needed if the nation even hopes to come to terms with this body blow to India’s parliamentary democracy is an inquiry into the allegation. In the past, we have described unfortunate incidents and behaviour played out in Parliament as signalling ‘a sad day for India’s democracy’. What was on display on Tuesday left one speechless as we still collectively search for a new word that signifies ‘the saddest of sad days’. It is no longer enough to say that Parliament has sunk to a new low. Regardless of whether the shocking allegation is proved correct or not, on Tuesday a door had been kicked in, a bar, already depressingly low, was blown away.
But should we be really shocked by what we saw on Tuesday? Why did the waving of currency notes in the well of the Lok Sabha make us squirm, while all these years we have grown tolerant — even comfortable — of matters that the Lok Sabha Speaker in his incredibly understated way calls “unfortunate”? It is all very well to say that India’s parliamentary democracy is resilient enough to tide over even this. But somehow after Tuesday, such a comforting belief no longer holds. Democracy is what we make of it and it seems very clear that at some very basic level, we have made a hash of it. That we are shocked by the display of money — as well as by the yet-to-be-confirmed charge of MPs being bribed for votes — sits very uneasily with the absolute ease with which we have allowed our Parliament to become a refuge of scandal. The world witnessed the shameful face of India’s much-touted democracy. It would be wise that we also learn to recognise that face for its very survival.
On Tuesday, we gazed into the house where Indian democracy resides on our behalf. And something ugly stared back at us.