Congress leaders are ignoring the rules published in the book of code of conduct implemented by Parliament itself.
It has been my privilege that I have been getting the opportunity of reporting about Parliament since 1972. Earlier, being a news agency’s correspondent, most of the time I had to sit in the gallery itself. Everything had to be heard and written, keeping in mind the rules and regulations. For newspapers, more and more information had to be obtained inside and outside the House or by staying in the Parliamentary Library. For years, newspapers carried full one-page news content from the front-page to the inside pages on Parliament proceedings—Q&A and important issues. Most of the important speeches were published. Therefore, these days, it is sad and surprising to see the strong opposition to the suspension of MPs over the violence in the Rajya Sabha, the assault on female security personnel by the members, and the attempt to attack the Speaker by throwing papers towards the chair. But the surprise is that the members were not ready to even aplogise to the Chairman for their crime. The country’s oldest Congress party is also leading this protest campaign. The party’s top leader Rahul Gandhi has announced that there is nothing to aplogise about. Their leader in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, has argued that according to the rules, the punishment for the offence committed in the previous session of the House cannot be given in this session. On the basis of this logic, if on the last day of any session, a member strangles or slams the opposition leader, he cannot be punished in the next session. Anyway, there is no provision for action in court on the allegations or any behaviour inside the House. MPs have a shield of privilege. Yes, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Speaker of the Rajya Sabha and the House can punish an outsider journalist by exercising the privilege. Even the judges of the Supreme Court can be summoned to the House and punished.
Congress leaders who have cited the rules on this incident, are ignoring the rules published in the book of code of conduct implemented by the Parliament itself. It clearly states in a rule: “Members are prohibited from raising slogans, wearing any badges, waving flags, posters, keeping arms and shotguns in the House. Members should not come in the middle of the proceedings of the House to protest.” Similarly, according to the rules made for taking part in parliamentary debates, “a member shall not mention any fact or matter on which judicial decision is pending. No one will say seditious, seditious, or defamatory words. No one shall exercise his right to speak for the purpose of obstructing the business of the House. Will not tear documents in the house.”
By flouting all the rules and regulations, boycotting the President’s address, making inappropriate indecent remarks on the Chairman, discussion of very objectionable allegations in the Lok Sabha against the former Supreme Court judge and now the honorable member of the Rajya Sabha, the use of indecent language against the Prime Minister, the arrogant claim of absence within the stipulated time period on many serious subjects including experiments, budget or the prominent leader of the opposition not speaking on the subject, are not only sad but also shames those who respect the parliamentary system. The irony is that according to the old tradition and parliamentary rules, the Speaker/Chairman makes a prescriptive declaration to remove those things from the proceedings of the Houses, but at the time of live telecast of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, not only those allegations, indecent scenes reach all the countries and anyone records it anywhere. Then it reaches millions of people on social media, recent events seem to suggest that Rahul Gandhi and his supporters are adopting the British leader Churchill’s formula to topple the Modi government. Although Churchill was prime minister for years, after bad days and saddened by the Labor government coming to power, he said that “the religion of the opposition is to remove the ruling party from power, no matter what it has to do.” By following this principle, Rahul Gandhi has lined up numerous allegations: the loss of all land and crops of farmers across the country to only two to four industrialists; people starving to death in India due to food being taken abroad by foreign companies; and unrestrained allegations against the Prime Minister, are being made inside and outside the Parliament. Isn’t his and India’s image getting tarnished because of constant confusion and rumours?
Generally, politics in India before and even after independence was considered for service, honesty, and national interest. It is not so now. In a democracy, there are different of opinions even in a party. Difference of opinion is possible even among leaders of Sangh and BJP. But how appropriate would it be to spread completely false information on matters related to security and welfare of society?
This is the same Parliament in which journalists and social political activists like me have spent the last 50 years with the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jyotirmoy Basu, Madhu Limaye, Piloo Mody, Jagjivan Ram, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, George Fernandes, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, Sushma Swaraj, Narasimha Rao, and Pranab Mukherjee who strengthened the ideal of democratic tradition by staying in the opposition in Parliament. In protest, they defended moral values and rituals. There are still many old and young MPs in Parliament, speaking with full preparation and playing a positive role, but due to ruckus and only confrontation, on many days either work is not done or only disputes persist. The leaders of all the parties, who are proud of India being called the world’s largest democracy, should convene a special meeting and do a self-review and make a new code of conduct before the new building of Parliament. India’s image is being tarnished by tainting the credibility of the judiciary, media, army, even scientists, in Parliament. Millions of young Indians looking for new dreams in the country and abroad begin to despair with confusion. In fact, Parliament is the mirror of Indian democracy. It is everyone’s duty to save it from breaking.
The author is editorial director of ITV Network-India News and Dainik Aaj Samaj.