Touching the lower depths

It is most unusual for a presiding officer of a legislature, who usually comes from the ruling party, to expunge the remarks of a prime minister for using language unbecoming of his office. At least in the parliamentary history of India, it is difficult to recall such an incident. The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday expunged the remarks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi about a Congress member who had contested and lost the election for the office of the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The victory of the ruling party’s candidate in a House where it did not have majority is certainly a matter for celebration and the exultation in the camp of the ruling party was natural and normal. But in doing so, the Prime Minister made remarks against the defeated candidate – remarks which did not redound to the prestige of the office of the Prime Minister or the dignity of Parliament.
Politics in this country is more and more touching the lower depths. Politicians of all hues and brands are using language which only express bile and vitriol but have very little facts and sober argument which is expected of them. Gradually, even the dividing line between the language of street politics and that of parliament which is the supreme tribune of the people in a democracy is disappearing. Elected representatives of the people quite often behave in a way and use language that those who sent them to Parliament do not expect. Over the years and the decades, the standard and quality of debate in both the Houses has declined compared to the days of Nehru and even Indira Gandhi. There were brilliant parliamentarians like Bhupesh Gupta and Hiren Mukherjee from the opposition camp. Nehru himself was a great parliamentarian. Even when he was criticized unjustly, what he expressed was anguish rather than anger.
The unpleasant incident that the Rajya Sabha witnessed on Thursday should never have happened. If people holding high constitutional offices are not cautious about the language they use inside the sacred precincts of Parliament, it will not only lower its prestige but people will start losing faith in the parliamentary system of governance. As the tendency increases more and more to use muscle power in street politics, the Members of Parliament should uphold the dignity of the institution. Otherwise they will destroy the sanctity of Parliament and erode the respect of the people for this institution.

Saturday, 11 August, 2018