Parliament – A Sadhu’s sanctuary
By H.K. Dua
The people of India have been taking some pride in the nation being the largest democracy in the world. They are, however, feeling rather worried over what is happening in Parliament lately.
That the standards of Parliament, and the quality of its debates have been going down over the years is fairly well known. Recent developments in Parliament are, however, making the people ask whether the kind of MPs that are landing in the august House can at all be their true representatives.
The people, already disillusioned, can feel only disgust after Wednesday when the Lok Sabha witnessed an unprecedented display of abuse and invective and some muscle power. What often happens in the Bihar Street was being staged in the high-domed chamber as saner elements, including the Speaker, the media and the visitors in the public galleries helplessly watched the grisly proceedings on the floor of the House.
Among the visitors were also children in school uniform who in their formative years had been brought to learn a lesson or two about a functioning democracy. Rivals or otherwise, none seemed to be bothered about the fact that Doordarshan’s Sansad Channel was giving live transmission of the theatre of the absurd and the unruly to the people who could only feel ashamed of the conduct of their representatives.
Parliamentary or otherwise, from the din were heard shouts in purple words: “Criminals”, “Goonda”, “Rape”, uttered not with subdued passion. Involved in the day’s exchanges were JD (U)’s Prabhunath Singh, RJD’s boss – who is none else than Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav – and his brother-in-law, Anirudh “Sadhu” Yadav. Incidentally, “Sadhu” Yadav is on the run from law and evading non-bailable warrants issued by the sessions judge of Gopalgunj for his alleged involvement in an assault case.
The monsoon session began with the BJP’s unfortunate attack on the office of the Speaker, and Wednesday’s ugly finale was provided by present-day leaders of Bihar like Lalu Prasad Yadav, “Sadhu” Yadav and Prabhunath Singh. Less than six decades ago, Parliament came into existence in the same premises with one of the great leaders Bihar lent to the nation – Dr Rajendra Prasad – presiding over the Constituent Assembly.
There is something revolting in the whole situation in the country, with the people watching the decline of Parliament, the institution they had begun to respect and love with the hope that the Honourable MPs they were electing would not betray their trust. Alas!
All political parties must share the blame for it. The Congress is in power in the company of the RJD whose 23 members – including “Sadhu” Yadav – add to the UPA’s numbers to enable it to rule at the Centre. The BJP does not mind the company of Prabhunath Singh and his friends of varied reputations in the JD (U) to get a crumb of power in Bihar.
Parliamentary decorum should have been above partisan considerations. The Speaker alone cannot control the MPs if some of them have chosen to go berserk and settle individual or party scores in the House. Leaders of every political party represented in Parliament, big or small, have the duty to rein in their flocks and help the Speaker to bring the House to order.
It is time the leaders of political parties in Parliament sat together and seriously worked out a consensus that will not let their members misbehave in the House. This consensus is not difficult to arrive at once there is keenness for one.
Much is said about the need for laying down a code of conduct for the members of Parliament. Where is the need for a fresh code of conduct when both Houses of Parliament have adopted detailed rulebooks to help smooth conduct of the proceedings? It will be a surprise if “Sadhu” Yadav has ever cared to read the rulebook which is given to every member free of charge soon after he has taken the oath as an MP.
Essentially, the character of Parliament will depend on the kind of candidates political parties field for election and the kind of men and women the people elect as their representatives. If political parties give tickets to criminals and local toughs and musclemen, how will proceedings and debates in the House be orderly? Most political parties are not willing to deny tickets to the criminals, if they can win some seats in their company. Even if some parties refrain from giving tickets to people on the wrong side of law, they are ready to share power with the parties who have come to Parliament with criminals in tow.
Coming to power, or retaining power, are key to political parties’ essential ambitions. In these days of politics sans morality, no political party, big or small, is shy of supping with the devil, if necessary.