Witnessing unprecedentedly ugly scenes of mayhem in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later commented that his heart bled, it was `sad for democracy.’ If Singh was an editorial writer, he would pass muster. For editorialists are usually armchair pundits, commenting on all and sundry matters without being personally accountable for any of them. Unfortunately, Singh is not an editorial writer. He happens to be the prime minister of the largest democracy in the world. And in that position, lamenting helplessly the rotten state of affairs inside and outside Parliament is not enough. In fact, it reveals his own irrelevance to the events happening under his very nose. But there can be no doubt that as prime minister, he personally bears a good of responsibility for the degeneration in our public life, for what he has allowed our Parliament to become in recent weeks and months. Before blaming the MPs, and these were, notably, his own party’s MPs, Singh should pause to ponder his own role in creating the mess. The latest round of disruptions in the two Houses are essentially due to the abrupt decision of the government to press ahead with the move to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. The government has failed to make a convincing case for so doing. Neither administrative nor developmental grounds have been advanced by the central ministers to concede the demand for a separate Telangana. Even those who believe that a separate Telangana would spur a faster socio-economic development in the region have no hesitation in acknowledging that the Congress leadership has belatedly chosen to divide Andhra only for purely electoral reasons. The party expects to win a couple of Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, while it fears a complete washout in the rest of Andhra. But the leadership did not do its homework, failed to get its own Andhra unit on board. Once the Andhra chief minister and a large number of ministers, MLAs and MPs from Seemandrha rebelled, the Congress leadership ought to have put brakes on the Telangana move. It did not. Because it is desperate for any seat it might win. However, those who know the situation on the ground are of the firm belief that the Congress might suffer the fate of a man in the old fable who alternates between a hundred whiplashes and eating hundred onions as punishment and ends up undergoing both forms of it. In other words, its gamble on Telangana is set to fail. But leave the Congress and the Telangana issue aside. What about the sorry state of Parliament? If events in the two Houses on Wednesday were terrible, with ministers squatting in the well of the House, those on Thursday were outright disgraceful. Every Indian ought to hang his head in shame that we send such men and women to Parliament, who uproot mikes from the presiding officer’s podium, raise raucous slogans, tear up official papers, hoist banners and generally conduct themselves in the most rowdy manner in front of a nationwide audience. Delinquent school kids behave better. But what marked the lowest of the low in the annals of our parliamentary history was the conduct of a ruling party member from Andhra Pradesh, who had come armed with a can of chilli-pepper spray which he emptied on all and sundry inside Lok Sabha. It was a stellar performance, causing the House to be adjourned immediately. Three members required medical attention; even a few members of the media sitting at some distance suffered the stinging effect.
Metaphorically, the entire nation went through the stinging effect of that lone member’s idiotic act to take on his own party in the Lok Sabha. The collapse of the ruling party leadership was complete. Now, even if the Telangana resolution is passed, only due to the BJP’s readiness to support the government, the bitterness and animosity between the people of the two regions in Andhra will persist. And it is not as if the people from Seemandhra would cease to live in what would become Telangana, but their sense of insecurity and vulnerability will need to be addressed. As for the Parliament, the sanctum sanctorum of Indian democracy, it stands irretrievably sullied. Though the Prime Minister and the top leadership of the ruling party bear major responsibility for the disgracing of Parliament, everyone else in the two Houses, including the Opposition, is not blameless either. The entire political class has shamed India.