The joint session of Parliament in May this year — to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament — must be a distant dream now. In the past ten days, members of parliament, who, on May 13, had jointly pledged to “uphold and maintain the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of Parliament” in a tear-jerking moment, have done everything possible in their power to undo that pledge. Parliamentary procedure has been scuttled, debate and discussion sent into deep-freeze and the most sacred arena of a democracy reduced to a mud pit as MPs have entered a no-holds-barred show to prove their might. The cherry on the cake was placed in the Rajya Sabha when members of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party tugged at shirt collars, perhaps in the absence of the more handy wrestlers’ garment, before lunging at each other for a more wholesome scuffle. Samajwadi Party members even had their Robin Hood moment when they tried to snatch a copy of the promotion quota bill from a minister of state. But this is not the first time that parliamentarians have displayed such agility. The nation has watched in horror as they have sought, time and again, to show their physical prowess by trying to shout each other down or by rushing to the well with gusto.
It is odd that B.R. Ambedkar’s nightmare about the “grammar of anarchy” should be visiting Parliament every time it finds itself in session. Is it the irresistible attraction of making news on the 24x7 channels that is propelling India’s parliamentarians to make such a demonstration of themselves? Or is their aggression more an indication of the subtle churnings in Indian society that is replacing sophistication with the bravado of a street-fight? Since both are now undeniable facets of Indian politics, it is difficult to pick one and neglect the other. But even together, the two realities cannot obscure the importance of the Parliament’s sanctity to the future of Indian democracy. Perhaps the new crop of politicians has to be schooled in the art of parliamentary politics so that they behave differently from their avatar on the streets, or parliamentary discipline more strictly enforced through suspensions. A healthy habit of discussion, not merely within the House, would also help once the ruling party unlearns its habit of dictating affairs and the Opposition its habit of disrupting.