Opinion: Unruly legislators need to be pulled up

Legislative bodies are meant to be places where members legislate — that is, make laws. Unfortunately, a large number of members in the various legislative bodies in the country come with dubious backgrounds and lack the knowledge or intelligence to legislate or to participate in healthy discussions

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Saturday, August 27, 2022, 11:20 AM IST
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The unseemly scuffle between elected representatives. | Video grab

The scuffle between the ruling party and the opposition legislators in Maharashtra on the steps of the State Legislature, though condemnable, is not surprising, given the quality of some of the members elected to the august body.

Members on both sides need to be condemned for their uncivilised behaviour, which cannot be called rowdy as it amounts to breach of Privileges of the Legislature.

Legislative bodies are meant to be places where members legislate — that is, make laws. Unfortunately, a large number of members in the various legislative bodies in the country come with dubious backgrounds and lack the knowledge or intelligence to legislate or to participate in healthy discussions to make laws. Many of them are in fact a law unto themselves.

It is not that only those who are educationally qualified or are well-read make good legislators, whether as members of state legislatures or of Parliament. There are numerous examples of individuals who lacked proper education, yet made great contributions as legislators or as ministers.

Two such individuals were K Kamaraj and Vasantdada Patil. Kamaraj was a school dropout, but was successful as a member of the then State of Madras legislature. He was also chief minister of the erstwhile state and a member of the Lok Sabha. He carried out all the roles extremely well.

The same can be said of Vasantdada Patil, who had studied up to what was then called matriculation, which is equivalent to Class 7. As chief minister of Maharashtra, Patil was a good administrator and was known to explain issues even to bureaucrats.

It is not that the legislative bodies are meant only to make laws — they are platforms for elected representatives to raise issues concerning the people at large, and the government is expected to take remedial measures. That does not seem to be the case now.

Though scuffles and unruly behaviour are not a regular affair in the Maharashtra legislature, there have been some serious issues in the past, with members becoming unruly inside the House too.

The incident that occurred on Tuesday was avoidable, but it gives an impression that it was a planned move by some members of the ruling faction of the Shiv Sena. The legislators of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) — the front comprising the Shiv Sena, Indian National Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — are equally to be blamed for it.

The MVA legislators, who form the Opposition in the state legislature, had been protesting on the steps of the legislature shouting slogans in Marathi, the slogans implying that Rs 50 crore had been spent to get Shiv Sena legislators to rebel against the party and join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to oust the Uddhav Thackeray administration and form the government in the state. However, legislators are supposed to air their views and objections inside the House and not on the steps of the legislature. The protest is now a regular occurrence during every session of the legislature and, needless to say, is meant for television channels which enjoy giving publicity to such drama. When the BJP was in the opposition, that party’s legislators indulged in similar protests.

Having made their point by protesting once, the MVA legislators should have called off the protest, but that did not happen and it acted as an instigation to the Shiv Sena legislators who are with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. Shinde supporters came to the legislature before the MVA legislators arrived, and occupied the steps in protest. One does not see a reason for the members of the ruling alliance to come out and protest. When the legislators of MVA turned up, an argument ensued that culminated in blows. It is most shameful and has to be condemned in the strongest words possible.

Eminent persons and great orators have been members of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and both the Houses of the legislature have had equally great presiding officials. Not many of the current members can come close to those members, who raised issues concerning various sections of people in the state. Their oratory often mesmerised listeners, whether members of the Houses, journalists or visitors. Such members are missing today. The legislature has become a stage for theatricals, personal attacks and cheap comedy, by bad actors and comedians.

The presiding officers are custodians of their respective Houses. It is their duty to correct the members if their behaviour is questionable, whether inside the legislature or outside. Both the legislators involved in the fisticuffs should be warned by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly against such behaviour.

Two other Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Prakash Surve and Santosh Bangar, should also be warned for their behaviour and statement in public. A video has emerged of Bangar slapping an employee of a canteen contractor, while a video of Surve shows him telling his supporters to break the hands and legs of those who bully them, and that he would arrange for their bail if they are arrested.

Nevertheless, it would be inappropriate to blame such legislators, as that is their nature and background; the voters who elect them are to be blamed.

The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi

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