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Democracy loses when politicians 'take to the streets'

August 29, 2012 15:00 IST

Tying up Parliament's either houses without doing any business but behaving as if it is already a street ill-behoves the nation which calls itself the largest democracy. Here, the maturity is measured, unfortunately, by the number of voters and the size of the Parliament than by the wisdom, reason, reasonableness, persuasion being its backbone, say Maheah Vijapurkar. 

To the voting citizens, there are some givens. One is that the elected representative does his or her duty by the nation and the voter in the for a to which the person has been elected to, the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha -- or any other law-making or institutions of self-government. The other is that they do their work with commitment and above all, so that sense prevails, do it decorously.

What should get the bile rising -- it has with me, already -- is that those who have the leadership  of these MPs have chosen to tell the world that the politicians should now bring out their positions more effectively by taking to the streets. In a matured political democracy, even during the elections to these coveted posts, they are to take to the stump, not the streets.

The political vocabulary is so demeaning that to 'take to the streets' points to show of a brutish refusal to hear and heed voices of reason but display of numbers and drown serious issues into the cacophony during the rabble-rousing. Recall, it was easier for Marc Antony to ignite the passions of the mob than for the well-meaning, thinking men to persuade Brutus to rise against Julius Caesar.  

Tying up Parliament's either houses without doing any business but behaving as if it is already a street ill-behoves the nation which calls itself the largest democracy. Here, the maturity is measured, unfortunately, by the number of voters and the size of the Parliament than by the wisdom, reason, reasonableness, persuasion being its backbone. That implies that we have settled for size, form and not content; substance is surely missing.

The provocation and the subsequent stimulus to continue with the din, the disruption of the functioning of the parliament is strong indeed. In coalgate, as with 2G, the government has settled down to say two things: one, we did no wrong; we have been wronged by the CAG. Two, you who are in the opposition did it likewise, so then, why fault us? You did you mischief when you were in power, and now it is our turn.

The other ridiculous cause for the disruption is that the government insisting that the mine leases were issued but not activated so where is the presumptive loss? But the opposition has failed to ask: if they are not rescinded, wouldn't they lead to loss if the contracts remain valid? There seems to be lot of shadow boxing and amid the din, even the opposition has failed to make its point.

Now that Sonia Gandhi, who fumed even as she was seated and goaded her partymen to action -- how undignified! -- it would surely lead to the streets where things are going to get worse. It would be the phase which Marc Antony loved. Recall the words? "Mischief, now that thou are afoot…" That is exactly what both sides want, a messy free-for-all where rhetoric prevails, substance is lost. A bribe of Rs 64 crore by Bofors led to a government's fall.

Now with enormous, mind-boggling sums being bandied about, everyone else is reduced to role-playing, no conscience stirred. It is being cynically dismissed as how a corrupt political system can only get more corrupt than travel in the reverse gear. Even well-meant campaigns, regardless of who leads them to ease the vice of corruption are dismissed as theatre and the media take their cue from the day's most aggressive statement from just about anyone.

The media, especially the real-time television news channels have provided an alternate platform to Parliament but unfortunately they are only chasing headline and TRPs with the simple ploy of asking the questions of the type: Have you stopped beating your wife? If the television debates, directed by the whim of the anchor and the wile of the talking heads can be as confusing as they are, imagine what would transpire if streets replace Parliament.

The issue of dysfunctional Parliament is being trivialised by putting out the cost of holding the sessions -- a few crores per day but downplaying the value, in negative terms, of lost opportunities to conduct important business. Have we been told even once as to which of the 31 pending bills are matter of life and death to the country? We have not been. As they say, cynics are those who ask the price, not the value. Much more is being lost that we are losing sight of. The very Parliament, I am afraid, is being jeopardised.

This 'to the streets!' bugle has been sounded by a leader of a party which has accused Anna Hazare and his followers of denigrating the institution of Parliament by substituting the Janpath for the Parliament House. Now, the very opposite of that submission to the supremacy of Parliament seems to have already lost in the mists of time. How convenient!

The more inconvenient, and possibly risky, option of returning to the stump to seek a mandate has been ignored for no MP wants to face an election. Politics -- that is what being an MP is all about -- is their bread and butter. And that bread and better comes not by performing their duties inside Parliament but elsewhere which, one can presume, has led to scams that pop up every day. The concern is extra-parliamentary. Unlike Sonia Gandhi's statement, it is not blackmail, but corruption that is the raison d'etre of politics.

Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator who takes the common man's perspective seriously.

Mahesh Vijapurkar