L’affaire vote rating politics
On the eve of Independence Day, the Rajya Sabha had an impromptu discussion immediately after the House met for the day. The discussion was initiated...
On the eve of Independence Day, the Rajya Sabha had an impromptu discussion immediately after the House met for the day. The discussion was initiated by Najma Heptullah, a former deputy chairperson. She has impeccable credentials as a parliamentarian. She also has impeccable credentials as an academic – she did her post-graduation in Zoology, and a PhD in cardiac anatomy. Moreover, as the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Najma commands respect and is heard with attention whenever she intervenes. Like when she did on Wednesday.
“Even in a negative way, no word, which is deemed unparliamentary should be used”, she said and asked Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari to consider expunging an expression he had used a day earlier when the TDP members and some other Opposition members did their best to stall the proceedings. He had ticked them off saying “If the Honourable Members wish to become a federation of anarchists, then it is a different matter, because there is no order in the House.”
Najma felt that the remark was unfair. Ansari disagreed. There are bodies that exist with this name in different countries, he told her and pointed out that there is even an international association which goes by the name Federation of Anarchists. And went on to say what that forum does, namely work for abolition of all forms of authority, and work with anti-parliamentarian commitment. He further said that he had only posed a question, and insisted that he did not make an observation. Not all members were willing to accept Ansari’s view.
Vasudevan Maitreyan, a qualified medical oncologist, was the first to spring to his feet. “What is said and what it conveys is totally different”, the Vadagalai Iyengar, who became a front-line leader of AIADMK after a long stint in the RSS and the BJP, told the chair. Whether Ansari desired or whether it just happened is a matter of conjecture but what followed was a free-flowing discussion for and against the expression “anarchists” in the context of Rajya Sabha members.
Yogendra Trivedi, (NCP), a senior Supreme Court lawyer, offered a way out. “Substitute the objected word with something like ‘unruliness’ which is more palatable and which also expresses the feeling of the Chair”, he said. D. Raja, the CPI leader, agreed that context was as important as what was said.
Raja is a delightful speaker and he makes his point without much fuss. He has just won his second term with AIADMK’s support. His first term was facilitated by DMK. The Left is not alone in siding with the winning horse in Dravidian politics. The Congress and the BJP are in the same league, and both suffer no ideological hiccups in tying up with whichever Dravidian party offers them the best electoral deal.
The take by Arun Jaitley was to the point. “There is a well-known concept of innuendo -- you directly don't say something but you say it by implication and it has the same impact. That is how it (expression ‘federation of anarchists’) has been understood”, he told Ansari. As the House heard Venkaiah Naidu and Sitaram Yechury, Karan Singh made some interesting observations. One was that had Ansari said in Hindi what he had said in English he could have easily passed muster. Because the Hindi word for anarchism is “avyavastha” and it doesn’t sound offensive.
Drawing upon his 36-years as a parliamentarian, he could not resist the temptation to hold out a homily. “Whatever the provocation is, my submission is that we must follow certain codes of conduct, certain rules. But disrupting the House is not the way”.
Karan Singh was witness to Nath Pai, Hiren Mukherjee, Indrajit Gupta, Bhupesh Gupta and a host of veterans haul the government over coals. So, he is distressed “the Question Hour is negated, the debates are negated, and day-after-day-after-day, two or three people stand up in the Well of the House and disrupt the whole proceedings.”
This is the point of Chairman Ansari as well. “So, the need of the hour”, said Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar, “is introspection by members”. This member from Warangal had his baptism in Parliament one and a half years ago. These are early days still for the founder of Somanadha Kala Peetam at Palakurthy.
He has the potential to shape up as a good speaker. But he must learn to do his homework regularly, opt to speak in Hindi/Urdu - the languages he is familiar with and resist the temptation to speak without marshalling his thoughts.
It is too early to say whether we have heard the last word on L’affaire Anarchists. President Pranab Mukherjee has used his I-Day address to tell the nation that our legislatures “look more like combat arenas, rather than fora that legislate”.
Pranab Mukherjee was an active player in Parliament till a year ago. The Opposition respected his voice and he respected their voice despite differences- political and ideological. Respect unto members is the summum bonum of parliamentary life. This is what has taken a back seat under UPA. It is clear from the expression that two or three members are holding up the House. That only two TDP members had held up the Rajya Sabha is a fact but they are not just two-three. “Sir, mentioning ‘two-three’ is wrong. We also represent crores of people”, Maitreyan told Karan Singh and the elder statesmen conceded his point.
There is a message in the way Ansari handled L’affaire Anarchists. He allowed members to let their steam though the debate consumed 40 minutes of the Question Hour. This is the way to retrieve the lost parliamentary ground. Suspending question hour or listening to members with an issue of public concern is not a big deal. Recourse to adjournments is. And dubbing agitated members as unruly is. Sadly these days, the UPA is encouraging their members to match the lung power of the Opposition, and is not stopping them from invading the Well of the House with an eye on Vote Rating Politics (VRPs) in Seemaandhra.
Karan Singh was witness to Nath Pai, Hiren Mukherjee, Indrajit Gupta, Bhupesh Gupta and a host of veterans haul the government over coals. So, he is distressed “the Question Hour is negated, the debates are negated, and day-after-day-after-day, two or three people stand up in the Well of the House and disrupt the whole proceedings”
Malladi Rama Rao
(The writer, a Delhi-based journalist, can be reached at [email protected])