If the prime minister of India would take the bull by its horns when attacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Parliament, as he did on the Coalgate issue, he would be able to show the party members up as rabble-rousers who disrupt Parliament every day to gain nothing except superficial brownie points for themselves in a shouting match on the floor of the House. India is ashamed by the behaviour of its elected representatives in both the Houses, and would prefer a measured, dignified response from the treasury benches, even if it is drowned in the din. These men and women have forgotten that the proceedings are on view and will be preserved for posterity. What an unfortunate legacy for the future generations.
Manmohan Singh cannot become a Sushma Swaraj. Hysteria and loose talk by leaders in public are inappropriate and unwarranted. It sets the standards of abuse and bad manners for the rest of the country. It encourages the lumpen to carry on behaving as they do on the streets of India. ‘If they can, why can we not?’ is the refrain. This tamasha in Parliament, led by the BJP members and some of their colleagues, has begun to take on the hues of the proceedings of the khap panchayats, where blackmail ensues if what the loudest voices want do not happen. India is being betrayed. In all of this, the only imperative is that the prime minister must be seen to be committed, proactive and responsive, even in his deadpan manner, and not remain silent because engagement with issues of national concern is the bedrock of a democracy and he is at the helm of the world’s largest free State. He is bound to speak to India through Parliament.
An important element of the cleansing process is the ‘cleansing’ of bad practices in the sanctum of Parliament, in both the Houses. To use the cliché, charity begins at home. The treasury benches and the Opposition must vow to the people of India that they will conduct their business in dignity. Each day, their oath of office is being thrown to the winds although they have sworn with their hands on religious books or on the Constitution. That, in itself, is unforgivable. They talk of ‘loss to the exchequer’ because of faulty decisions but themselves throw money in the gutter by disrupting the House and compelling adjournments. It is time their salaries and perks are removed for demeaning India and its people. The rules must be amended to ensure that for each hour the Parliament does not work, the loss must be calculated and deducted from the parliamentarians’ salaries.
The unnecessary and continuing perks of members of parliament who were defeated at the hustings must stop. There is no reason whatsoever for them to have a certain amount of free travel on the Indian Railways or on Air India. The people have rejected them. Only members of the council of ministers should be entitled to homes in Lutyens’ Delhi. The rest should have studio apartments, like those in Western Court on Janpath. This exploitation of prime properties is unacceptable. Every bungalow, barring three or four, have been architecturally mutilated. The same men and women who lead insular lives in the comfort of colonial homes abuse the colonial past. Incapable of rising above the insecurity that plagues them, the State and its inmates did not celebrate the centenary of New Delhi being declared the capital of India. That conscious shunning of a historical fact emphasized a regressive mindset.
Small wonder then that the members of the assemblies in Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and other states create havoc in the House, breaking state property, hurling microphones at one another, all laced with the choicest abuse. We must restore dignity to our public domain.