The House of the People has let down the people, again. The Lok Sabha debate on raging intolerance – which even the parliamentary affairs minister is now conceding – was much too serious to be reduced to the slanging match that is the norm in the apex legislature. The need for a course-correction was stressed last week by the Prime Minister, and while there is no reason to suggest that his conciliatory posture merited reciprocity, surely it would have been in the larger national interest if a genuinely “burning” issue was discussed with maturity. For the issue went far beyond a divided intelligentsia, accusations of “manufactured” dissent, and took in what sections of the minority communities perceive as determining their future status and welfare.

Alas, the discussion was trivialised by a lowly bid at finger-pointing. The CPI-M member, Mohd Salim, has enough experience in both Houses of Parliament to have “sensed” the gravity of the debate he was privileged to initiate but failed to rise to the occasion, and with puerile irresponsibility opted to make a personal charge against the home minister. 

A charge based entirely on a magazine article, and he had no material of his own to substantiate what appeared outrageous: warranting recall of the contention that time was when the press was full of Parliament, now it is the other way around since MPs do little homework of their own. The controversy ought to have ended when the minister denied Salim&’s allegation, particularly since the latter had no further evidence, but the manner in which the CPI-M man grinned and tried to repeat his allegation suggested that his limited purpose was to create uproar, and he appeared thrilled at his “success”.

Sure the BJP is  on the back-foot after intemperate statements did it much damage in the Bihar poll, sure the Opposition is entitled to extract political mileage from that electoral verdict, yet was Salim justified in pitching the debate so low?

It was an occasion for him to “register” himself as a parliamentarian of proficiency and purpose. He “blew it”. Actually he invited some vicious counter-punching from the NDA benches, which only deflected from the nationwide concerns over intolerance. It has been reconfirmed that Parliament is no longer capable of providing quality guidance to national governance, applying the requisite pressure on the ruling entity to be sensitive to the apprehensions of those who “think” differently and whose dissent is not politically-induced. 

For most MPs the index of their performance is the “space” they secure in a sensation-thriving media. The bigger picture is lost, for though there had been an increase in the size of newer model TV sets, it still remains the “small” and often petty screen.