It happens only in Incredible India Democracy at work — from shirt tearing to sari pulling

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Every time there are unruly scenes in Parliament or Legislative assemblies in states in India, experts and media are quick to point out that democracy and etiquette have touched a new low. The “new low” keeps going lower, but the point is that this is how democracy in India “works” — not by discussing issues or raising points, but by hurling tables, abuses and chairs (not necessarily in this order), yanking out mikes, tearing papers and bills, punching opposition members and using the assembly as a “living” in center.

Every time there are unruly scenes in Parliament or Legislative assemblies in states in India, experts and media are quick to point out that democracy and etiquette have touched a new low. When a DMK MLA pulled at the sari of J. Jayalalithaa in the Tamil Nadu assembly in 1999, democracy was called a “disrobing drama.” More on that later in this piece.

The “new low” keeps going lower, but the point is that this is how democracy in India “works” — not by discussing issues or raising points, but by hurling tables, abuses and chairs (not necessarily in this order), yanking out mikes, tearing papers and bills, punching opposition members and using the assembly as a “living” in center.

The MLAs and the media were quick to point out that it was for the first time that armed policemen, including the police commissioner, entered the assembly to restore order. This happened in the Karnataka Legislative assembly on October 11, when the B. S. Yeddyurappa government was to prove its majority. But this is not right. In 1999, the police in Tamil Nadu went berserk in and outside the assembly.

But the one scene that stunned everyone on October 11 was the way former Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Goolihatti Shekhar Goolihatti D. Shekhar displayed his “youthfulness” and sporting nature by jumping from one desk to another and then tearing his shirt yelling expletives at Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and his government. Shekhar was sacked by Yeddyurappa for non-performance, but on October 11, he was the “best performer” in the assembly.

A Janata Dal man, Shekhar, sought a ticket from Hosadurga in Chitradurga district in Karnataka. When asked to contest from Holalkere, he contested as rebel candidate from Hosadurga and won. He is a science graduate and is into granite business when he does not make money in politics. Remember, the rebel MLAs were offered a whopping Rs. 30-30 crore “loyalty fee” apart from free trips to the backwaters of Kerala and seashores of Goa.

October 11 also saw the police storming the assembly led by Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari. He was instructed to come to the House by Speaker K. G. Bopaiah as the marshals were not being able to control the unruly MLAs.

Though he was discharging his duties, former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda’s son — the burly H. D. Revanna — and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah (Cong-ress) pinned the commissioner to the wall and called him names. Siddaramaiah went to the extent of asking the commissioner to get out and issued a threat: “You know who I am. Do you know what I may become tomorrow? And what do you expect your fate to be then?” Bidari was left speechless.

As the arguments got nastier, one MLA knocked off the cap of Bidari, rendering him helpless. He was also pushed and shoved around by the MLAs.

While many are familiar with floor dance, the Congress MLAs in Karnataka introduce a new number called “desk dance” on the floor of the assembly on October 11. They stood on tables and chairs, hopped from one desk to another and used foul language at the marshals and the government.

One marshal fainted and others said privately that they had never heard such foul language in their lives. All this from the Congress, whose leader Rahul Gandhi wants change and from the JD(S), whose leader was a former Prime Minister and a “humble farmer” H. D. Deve Gowda.

This is not the first time that Karnataka assembly is in the news. On July 12, MLAs  belonging to the Congress and the JD(S) made a tamasha of the assembly by spending three nights in the House having biriyani, singing songs and sleeping on the floor. Their demand? Handing over the illegal mining scandal involving the Reddy brothers to the CBI.

Congress and JD(S) MLAs, who do not share the same political ideology, were found sleeping together. Politics, after all, is a story of strange bedfellow.

On the first day, the MLAs had a tough time at night as rats gave them company. The rats too were perplexed as they found that the MLAs had ousted them in a bloodless coup. Later, the MLAs found that mosquitoes were creating “uproar” on the floor of the House.

From the next day, the MLAs brought their own mattresses, blankets and mosquito coils. The rats, of course, had staged a walkout.

This was the first time that the MLAs spent such long hours in the assembly, of course not transacting business, but fun.

At dawn on the third day, Congress MLAs tore a string of bills that were passed in the assembly and ended their “night-out.”

Days later, on July 21, an MLA in Bihar threw footwear at Speaker Uday Narain Choudhary when the latter suspended the 67 unruly members, mostly from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Left parties.

The suspended legislators were forcibly removed by the marshals from the House. But like Goolihatti Shekhar of Karnataka, the most telling image was that of Jyoti Devi of the Congress, who broke a string of pots on the assembly premises after she was expelled from the Bihar Legislative Council.

Jyoti Devi, a doctor by qualification, picked up pots outside the House and broke them one after another. At one point of time she held the plant and hurled it like an athlete would do in a hammer throw event. Spinning the pot, she threw it at the watch and ward staff yelling furiously.

She then took another pot and used it as a shot-put to throw it at a staffer of the House. Hurling abuses in choicest of words, she soon spent her hysteric steam when the staff picked her up and took her away to a hospital.

Later, she told newsmen that she threw the pots in self-defence. Nobody had a clue on who was trying to attack her — the pots, plants or thin air.

The day before, MLAs overturned tables and threw chairs at the Speaker. Many said that the unruly scenes were orchestrated by political parties for byte-hungry TV channels as Bihar is heading for an election early next year.

The Congress, that usually takes a high moral ground, did not condemn Jyoti Devi. Rahul Gandhi, who had told students of Patna colleges that time had come for value-based politics, did not have a word to say.

The Opposition was demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was among 47 people named in a complaint alleging misuse of Rs. 11,412 crore. Petitioner Arvind Kumar pointed to the irregularities in the use of development funds during 2002-08 in Bihar.

Later, around 80 Bihar Opposition members, taking a cue from Karnataka, spent the night in the well of the two Houses of the state legislature demanding the resignation of Nitish Kumar.

In Odisha, on November 2, 2004, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was injured in a scuffle between ruling and Opposition members in the state assembly in Bhubaneswar over the government’s agreement with a private company on bauxite mining.

Dissatisfied with Steel and Mines Minister Padmanav Behera’s reply on the issue during question hour, Con-gress members rushed to the well of the House and scuffles ensued below the podium of Speaker Maheswar Mohanty.

Some Opposition and ruling coalition members, who were pushing each other, moved towards the Chief Minister’s chair. In the melee, the desk in front of Naveen Patnaik toppled.
< br />Patnaik’s left foot got trapped under the desk and he was seen in great pain. Some legislators rushed to his aid and extricated his foot from under the desk. He was helped out of the House and rushed to a hospital as his feet were swollen by then.

The infamous Jayalalithaa sari episode took place in the Tamil Nadu assembly on March 25, 1989. She was then the leader of the Opposition. Jayalalithaa got furious when a Minister allegedly pulled her sari on the floor of the House. All hell broke loose after that.

Earlier Karunanidhi, who was Finance Minister as well as Chief Minister, was punched and Veerapandi Arumugam, who was then Local Admini-stration Minister, bled profusely from the forehead after he was hit with a mike.

In another incident, DMK member Thamaraikani waved his hand at Minister Veerapandi Arumugam’s face. When Arumugam reciprocated, Thamaraikani whacked him on the nose and the Minister was left bleeding profusely.

Speaker P.T.R. Palanivel Rajan issued a warrant to arrest Thamaraikani and the latter was arrested and lodged in the Central Prison for a week.

In another incident, Thamaraikan had hit Panrutti S. Ramachandran of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) inside the assembly and later claimed that he had only given him “an affectionate pat.” He had also roughed up Dr. A. Chellakumar of Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) and A. Rahman Khan.

But the sari episode was not a one-off incident. On January 28, 1988, there was utter chaos when Janaki Ramachandran succeeded M.G.
Ramachandran as Chief Minister following the latter’s death. When she was to prove her majority on the floor of the House, members came to blows and goondas stormed the House. Mikes were wrenched and pedestal fans and chairs were hurled all around. The then City Police Commissioner W.I. Davaram led a police contingent into the House and the police beat up anyone coming in front of them.

Courtesy: MSN India.com

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