A mockery of democracy

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Strip, snatch, slap isn’t parliamentary conduct

Unruly lawmakers, who think nothing before snatching documents, slapping people or stripping in the legislative chambers, must learn to behave themselves or they will stand accused, and rightly so, of demeaning the temples of democracy and, indeed, democracy itself. In resorting to vandalism and hooliganism within Parliament and in Legislative Assemblies across the country, these elected representatives have betrayed the trust the people who elected them to these very positions of power had reposed. While incidents of  disruptive and inappropriate behaviour seem to have taken on alarming proportions in recent weeks, the fact is that this has been an upward trend for a while now. Lawmakers trooping into the well of the House, chanting disruptive slogans, plucking out microphones and tearing up papers, not to mention the occasional fisticuff with the marshals, have unfortunately become routine, if not acceptable, forms of protest. Before it is too late, our elected representatives must realise that such behaviour (especially when coupled with gross incompetence in matters of governance) only leads to the erosion of faith in the representative system of leadership. It fuels disrespect for the state and those who personify it, and encourages anarchy. This in turn causes irreparable damage to civilised society in the long term.

In the short term, the errant MPs and MLAs argue, such behaviour is necessary to draw attention to their issues (which they feel are being stonewalled). Essentially, they believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But it doesn't apply well in this regard. Take the three cases from Wednesday. In the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly, an MLA from the PDP created a ruckus when the Speaker did not allow him to raise concerns about food supplies not reaching migrants, during Question Hour. He was ordered out, and when the marshals were escorting him away, he slapped one of them thrice. In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, MLAs from the Rashtriya Lok Dal hogged the limelight as they took off their shirts and protested bare-chested against the delay of payments to sugarcane farmers. Not to be outdone by the Opposition, State Cabinet Minister Azam Khan gesticulated to them to go fully naked so that their ‘mardangi’ could be established. Meanwhile in Delhi, an MP from the TDP heckled the Rajya Sabha Secretary General and tried to snatch from him papers related to the Telangana Bill. This was only days after a Congress MP used pepper spray in the Lok Sabha to protest the tabling of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, which caused unprecedented chaos in the Lower House.

Note how in each of these cases, the root cause of the protests — which may have been legitimate — have been overshadowed by the antics of the representative. The only result here is that the individual lawmakers have come under the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

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