I’m always a little circumspect writing about what goes on in our state assemblies and Houses of Parliament. First, I was one of the few people in school who took civics seriously even though it only constituted 10 marks of the social studies exam. Second, even though we make fun of individual politicians all the time, you still don’t want to be in contempt of the seat of power of our languishing democracy. All those apprehensions have been removed, however, thanks to our lawmakers last week.
In case you missed it, anti-Telangana MPs first took out a can of pepper spray in the Lok Sabha. Then, because making a room full of hundreds of people cry and choke to death wasn’t bad enough, a knife was pulled out to show the world that MPs would do anything to prevent a state from being divided even if it meant whipping out a weapon used to split things into two. Just when you thought the worst was over, MLAs from the Rashtriya Lok Dal stripped naked to protest against the Akhilesh Yadav government in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly making it the first time in history that television viewers willingly called for blurring of the great Indian paunch and cleavage. While having no clothes on your back and slapping random officials might be an excellent metaphor for the Akhilesh Yadav government, it’s sad how these scenes make us nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when MPs used to throw mics at each other or walk out without getting any work done. Who knew Parliament proceedings would turn into an episode of Roadies?
Parliamentarians are aware that public memory is more attuned to high-octane shouting and dramatic visuals than it is to debate. Why lodge an official protest when it is easier to perform for the cameras and storm the well of the house with a pile of notes, pepper spray or a knife? That act ends up winning plaudits for the minister in his or her local constituency while the national media prints another round of headlines stating ‘Dark day for Indian democracy’. I think it’s time we come to terms with the fact that even if we do censure such unparliamentarily behaviour and suspend such lawmakers, their actions making it to the 24 hour news cycle would have done enough for their profile and that is all that matters. Even though I disagree with the Lok Sabha’s decision of blanking out coverage of the Telangana Bill being tabled, I can see why they were forced to do it. It says something about the fragility of the state that we’re forced to take those kind of measures to protect its integrity.
I’m sure these acts of dissonance won’t be the last. I am curious how lawmakers in the future decide to top this to get into the headlines. Till then let’s all mumble stuff like ‘Kya pagalon ka desh hai’ under our breath and watch something less offensive like a Honey Singh video.